Today we had our last early-morning wakeup, and I enjoyed a quick power nap on our way to Grob, our final company visit. Grob Werke is a family owned company, which has maintained the Grob name for three generations. I was amazed by Grob’s facility, as it might as well have been a college campus!
Our tour guide for the day, George, was probably my favorite of all of our company visits. He was super friendly and funny, and made our plant tour more engaging than the previous ones (apart from BMW). George also had a tendency to repeat the phrase “roundabout,” so much so that I decided to count how many times the phrase was said. In our hour-long factory tour, George repeated the phrase a mere 22 times, but that doesn’t account for how often it was repeated in his original presentation.
This aforementioned presentation explained the various Grob facilities around the world, including one in Ohio, and detailed what Grob makes at the location in Germany. George explained that Grob works to develop the assembly lines for big manufacturers like BMW and Tesla. George also told us that Grob makes their own metal parts from 3D printing machines, which helps keep their supply chain running smoothly. During our factory tour, we saw many of these large machines, some of which were called G-modules, and each produced specific car parts.
After our factory tour, we enjoyed a company-provided lunch and had one final talk with George. After visiting Grob, we finished our day with a visit to the University of Augsburg for virtual VDE and BMW talks. I found the BMW talk particularly interesting, as a retired BMW employee talked about BMW’s efforts in designing self-driving cars. The presenter displayed a diagram of the different levels of autonomous driving, where level 1 is not automated at all and level 5 represents a self-driving car. The presenter explained that BMW is focusing on equipping their vehicles with level 3 automation, where the driver can disengage from driving for long periods of time.
Another part of the BMW talk I found interesting concerns a philosophical debate, where a fully automated vehicle may have to “decide” what to do in a critical situation. Assuming that a vehicle’s brakes are broken, and a pedestrian is crossing the street, the vehicle can either crash into a nearby barrier, killing the driver, or hit the pedestrian. What should the vehicle be programmed to do?
It may be unethical to trade lives, but nobody would buy a car that is programmed to prioritize pedestrian lives over the driver. Although this specific situation is very specific and unlikely, questions like these make the public doubt the ethicality of producing self-driving cars. The presenter later explained how most accidents could be avoided with self-driving cars, as it is common for drivers to freeze rather than hitting the brakes in critical situations. It is because of this fact that I don’t think the answer to the above question really matters, as self-driving cars will overall keep people safer than if human drivers were at the wheel.
We ended the day with an individual dinner, where I enjoyed a decent mushroom pizza. The pizza was good, but I still didn’t love having to cut the pizza with a fork and knife. We ended the day with some absurdly cheap gelato (about 1.30 euros for a cone with a single scoop). Tomorrow we’ll be visiting Munich. Bis Morgen!