Robert Bosch is to acquire Five, a leading UK startup in the field of automated driving, based in Cambridge, with approximately 140 employees. Five had received bids from other companies, but opted to do a deal with the German auto parts manufacturer. The agreement between both companies was signed at the beginning of April. No financial details were disclosed, and the acquisition is still subject to approval by the antitrust authorities.
“Automated driving is set to make road traffic safer,” commented Dr Markus Heyn, member of the Bosch board of management and chairman of the Mobility Solutions business sector. “We want Five to give an extra boost to our work in software development for safe automated driving, and offer our customers European-made technology.”
With six UK locations in total, Five will play a key role in the Bosch Cross-Domain Computing Solutions division. “Scale matters in building automated driving technology,” said Stan Boland, the CEO of Five. “Bosch is a global leader in driving assistance technologies, with core technologies and vast data lakes that will be essential in bringing safe self-driving systems to market. We’re excited for Five to become part of Europe’s most powerful SAE Level 4 player and to be a part of Bosch’s future success.”
Since it was set up in 2016, Five has built a team of experts in cloud software, safety assurance, robotics and machine learning, and has placed itself at the forefront of developing state-of-the-art software and artificial intelligence-based solutions for autonomous driving, through SAE Level 4.
The startup now focuses primarily on a cloud-based development and testing platform for the software used in self-driving cars. This offers engineers the programs they need to create automated driving software at pace, and to test it before and during its deployment in test vehicles. The platform is able to analyze real data from a fleet of test vehicles, create advanced testing scenarios, and build a simulation environment that makes it possible to assess and validate system behavior at hyper-scale.
The acquisition will strengthen Bosch’s agile project structure for the development of self-driving cars. The two teams’ software engineering environments are a natural pairing, and will be merged to form a single solution.
“Five is the perfect fit for our engineering activities – not least due to its associates’ mindset and agile approach. This brings us closer to our aim of getting safe automated driving onto our roads,” said Dr Mathias Pillin, president of the Bosch Cross-Domain Computing Solutions division.
Single source strategy
The news follows Bosch’s recent acquisition of Atlatec GmbH, a specialist in the field of high-resolution digital maps. Bosch says its strategy is to offer its customers all the necessary building blocks of automated driving from a single source – from actuators, sensors, and maps to software and the engineering environment.
With its driver assistance systems and requisite sensor technology, Bosch says it is taking the steps to lay the foundation for all automation levels at an early stage. It continues to develop solutions for private vehicles with a focus on driver assistance and on partially and conditionally automated systems (SAE Levels 1 to 3), while also working on solutions for higher levels of automation, with a focus on fleet vehicles and new operating models.
In the logistics sector in particular, Bosch sees attractive applications and business potential for SAE Level 4 automated driving systems. The company has already developed automated valet parking, the first production-ready driving function not to require a driver.