Sven Zimmermann, 37
Engineering director, automated driving, Robert Bosch LLC
Big break: “Coming to the United States and working with many different customers. It broadened my horizon.”
From his office in Silicon Valley, Sven Zimmermann shares his personal career dream.
“Someday when I’m having a morning coffee,” Zimmermann says, “I’ll look out the window and see a Mercedes passing by with no driver in it. I really want to make this happen. That will be one of the coolest things I do in my life, knowing that I’ve been part of it.”
Zimmermann is well on his way to realizing that dream.
As Robert Bosch LLC’s engineering director for automated driving, Zimmermann, 37, is head of the co-development project in Sunnyvale, Calif., between Bosch and Daimler to create and perfect “the brains” that will control Daimler’s robocars of the future. The two German powerhouses are bringing a spectrum of technologies to the mission, focusing on localization mapping, data fusion and path planning by weaving together radar, lidar and other sensors with actuators and various components.
The team will begin running its first pilot this year, putting early robocars on dedicated roads in San Jose, Calif.
“This is a first step to a product, but it’s just a first step,” said Zimmermann, who joined Bosch in 2005 just out of college in his hometown, Koblenz, Germany. He was named a technical project manager in 2010 to launch Bosch’s Generation 4 mid-range sensor on the Volkswagen Golf in 2013, the first system that handled both adaptive cruise control and predictive emergency braking.
An assessment study published the following year found that rear-end collisions dropped by half on vehicles equipped with that system, versus those without.
“We avoided collisions and saved lives with our technology,” Zimmermann said.
He then relocated to Bosch’s r&d offices in Plymouth, Mich., to spend the next three years spreading the technology to North American customers. The move to Silicon Valley in 2016 is taking the supplier to a whole new level.
“This is not a classical OEM-supplier relationship,” he said of the Mercedes project. “It’s a partnership. We’re developing this technology together. Ultimately it’s about bringing a robotaxi to the road.”
The development looks beyond the notion of robotaxi service. Other applications are likely, but still not fully known, including automated delivery services for groceries or even hot pizza.
“This is the most exciting technology to be working on in the auto industry today,” Zimmermann said.
“Daimler and Bosch are developing it together. We will own it together. We will profit from it together. And later on, Bosch will be able to offer it to other customers as well.”
— Lindsay Chappell