Environment Perception Interview with Markus Enzweiler

In this interview, he talks about his particular fascination for autonomous driving and his vision for the future of advanced driver-assistance systems and self-driving cars.

Hello Mr. Enzweiler. Please introduce yourself briefly to the readers.

My name is Markus Enzweiler and I am currently working on environment perception for self-driving cars in Stuttgart-Vaihingen in a joint effort between Daimler and Bosch. I am a computer scientist and I have studied in Bonn, Toronto, Ulm, and Heidelberg, from where I graduated with a PhD degree in 2011. During my studies I have already been working at Daimler as a student researcher and finally joined as a full-time employee in 2010.

Why did you choose Daimler as your employer?

Quite early in my studies I have developed a strong interest in teaching machines to perceive and understand their environment. Working in an academic environment to research and develop the underlying techniques has never completely satisfied me, as a major component is missing. That is to make a product out of exciting technology that has an impact on people's everyday lives. Daimler has always been one of the pioneers in enhancing safety and comfort through intelligent driving assistance systems. Machine perception is a key component in this area. Combined with my deep passion for cars and working on intelligent vehicles at Daimler seemed to be a natural fit at that time. And it still is!

What was your previous experience at Daimler – starting from your first day in the company until today?

During my PhD studies I have been working on camera-based pedestrian detection. After I joined Daimler, I had the chance to bring those methods to the market as part of the team that developed the stereo camera which debuted in the 2013 S-Class and E-Class models. Afterwards I focused on automated driving, which I see as the ultimate realization of intelligent vehicles. I was part of the team that made “Bertha”, an automated S-Class, drive autonomously from Mannheim to Pforzheim on the historic Bertha Benz route. I have also been involved in several pre-development projects dealing with both current and upcoming automated driving features.

Please tell us a bit more about your team and your work. What is your typical work routine like?

Together with Bosch, we want to develop a RoboTaxi for urban traffic - something that has never been done before. And this is challenging in more than one way. From a technological point of view, we in our team are targeting human-level performance in scene understanding by building the “brain” of our self-driving cars - using cutting-edge sensor technologies and machine learning. Solving such complex problems also requires new working models that are challenging but highly beneficial at the same time. We are working in mixed Daimler/Bosch project teams in a highly agile development process which offers a very creative and inspiring way to work.

You are quite busy beyond your work with environment perception. You give lectures at a university and you are involved in the Formula Student Germany. Would you describe your role at the Formula Student Germany?

I am indeed quite busy, but in a positive way. One of my main motivations is to strengthen the links between academia and industry in particular by supporting young engineers and researchers. My activities as Junior-Fellow of the German Informatics Society (Gesellschaft für Informatik), part-time lecturer, and in the Formula Student Germany (FSG) greatly support this goal. I became involved in FSG in 2016 when I helped to define the Formula Student Driverless as a new challenge. Being a part of FSG in Hockenheim was an outstanding experience and I was particularly impressed by the immense professionalism of the participating teams. In 2017, I am mentoring the Daimler-supported teams and serve as a judge for the driverless events at FSG. I am very excited to see the first driverless race cars on track and wish the teams all the best and a great time in Hockenheim.

What is your vision for the future of autonomous driving?

The future is certainly going to be very interesting. My personal view on autonomous driving is that we will see both evolutionary and revolutionary products at the same time. Current driver assistance systems will continuously get more and more autonomy features to support the driver. But we will also have systems in the near future that take the human driver out of the loop. This defining moment will then kick-start new business models and fuel creativity to redefine the car and mobility as we know it today. Lots of change is happening and we are working with our full passion on creating future mobility.

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