Made in Croatia

Rimac Automobili Developing Autonomous Driving System

By 23 July 2018

My cars will teach drivers how to drive safely, says Rimac.

The world's largest technology and automotive companies are investing billions of dollars in developing autonomous driving systems. Thanks to the Rimac Automobili company, Croatia is one of the countries working on such technologies. “Croatia is lagging behind the region,” says Mate Rimac about his latest project – the development of an autonomous driving system. “Other countries are investing heavily in it, from 5G infrastructure and testing centres, to communicating with the infrastructure, so that cars can be linked to traffic lights,” says Rimac, reports on July 23, 2018.

Rimac adds that, if the state were to become more actively involved in attracting technology companies, by developing infrastructure or by educating experts, other companies could get involved in the research. “We have missed the period when the car industry moved to the east, and we will miss this wave of new technologies as well,” he says.

The lack of high-quality staff is the biggest problem for high tech companies such as Rimac Automobili and MicroBlink, a business whose developers are working on developing machine learning algorithms. "We are not competitive in the segment," says Damir Sabol, the owner of MicroBlink. One of the key reasons why it is difficult to hire experienced and capable people is high labour costs. "It is harder to bring in foreign experts, it is harder to keep people in Croatia," Sabol says. He explains that the development of autonomous vehicles is tremendously expensive – in addition to the technology, vehicles and experts, it takes a long time to gather enough data.

For now, Rimac Automobili has 12 people working on the autonomous driving system development, which is not many compared to hundreds of engineers and experts working for Google or Microsoft, but Rimac does not intend to compete with them. He believes he has discovered a niche which no one else has entered so far. “We want to find the elements which are shared by high-performance cars and autonomous systems,” he says.

The first features of the new system should be available starting from 2020, when the new electric super car – Rimac C_Two – will arrive. Rimac is taking the development of autonomous technology very seriously, so the C-Two model has been designed from the start with all the necessary sensors and autonomous driving mechanisms. It will have everything needed to drive autonomously, with the exception of the artificial intelligence, which is currently being developed.

“We are investing a lot. We would build a team of 50 people right away if we could, but we hope we will succeed by the end of the year,” he says. In this industry segment, there are not many people with necessary experience, so they are looking for future employees at universities, where they offer scholarships to selected students. They are also looking for foreign experts but, in addition to the cost of labour, another problem is finding a job for their spouses. Many experts are ready to come to Croatia but their partners would find it hard to get a job without the knowledge of the Croatian language.

Rimac is not interested in the development of robotic taxis, unlike Uber or Lyft, who want to completely eliminate drivers from their business models in the future. As a supercar manufacturer, Rimac is looking for technologies that would make driving safer and more exciting, and one such technology is “Driver Coach” – a system that could, for example, find the ideal route for acceleration, turning and braking on a race course, and then, little by little, teach the human driver how to improve performance.

Rimac's autonomous driving system will not compete with Google and Microsoft, but it will probably represent a highly valuable technological innovation in the segment, and another technology that the company will be able to profit from.

Translated from (reported by Ivan Fischer).