The autonomous car will soon be with us. The race to market for vehicles of this type is being given top priority by many of the biggest carmakers. Where do we stand at the moment and where is the industry now headed?
Automation levels of the autonomous car
We fill you in below on the various automation levels of driver assistance, according to the ranking proposed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). They vary according to the degree of driver intervention, which functions they include and when we are likely to see them on the road.
Level 0: controlled manually, without any automation. The driver drives, albeit with possible non-automation assistance systems such as emergency braking. Such a system does not strictly “drive” the vehicle so it doesn’t count as a vehicle automation system.
Level 1: Assisted driving
This is the lowest automation level. The vehicle is fitted with a single automated system to assist the driver such as steering or speed. It taps into camera and sensor data but the driver is still in control. An example might be lane-changing assistance and control of cruising speed, with the driver taking on responsibility for all other driving aspects such as steering or braking.
Level 2: Partial automation – Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS).
The vehicle is able to control both the steering and acceleration/ deceleration ADAS capabilities. But there is always a human driver that can take over complete vehicle control at any time. Examples of level-2 systems include Tesla Autopilot and Cadillac’s GM Super Cruise.
Up to this level it is still the driver who monitors and detects the environment. As from level 3 the vehicle takes over this function.
Level 3: Conditional automation – the vehicle controls safety functions
The leap from level 2 to level 3 is considerable from the technological point of view though it may be inappreciable for drivers themselves. In level 3 it is the vehicle that detects the environment and can make its own decisions about overtaking a slow-moving vehicle. It still needs human supervision, however and the driver has to remain alert and on hand to take over control if the vehicle proves incapable of carrying out the driving task.
Two years ago now Audi (VW) announced that the first-generation A8 would be the world’s first ever level-3 vehicle. The Audi A8L hits the dealers in the fall of 2019, incorporating the Traffic Jam Pilot function, which combines a lidar scanner with next-generation sensor fusion and processing power (including key built-in redundancies in the event of component failures). During this vehicle’s engineering process, however, regulatory competence in this matter was devolved on the states, changing from a federal framework to a patchwork of state-to-state regulations. The Audi A8L, as a result, is still considered to be a level-2 vehicle in the USA and is marketed without the necessary level-3 hardware and software. In Europe, on the contrary, Audi will be marketing the Audi A8L with complete level-3 Traffic Jam Pilot functionality, (initially in Germany).
GMV is currently involved in the development of precise and safe positioning systems to be integrated onboard with level-3 automation.
Level 4: High automation level
The crucial difference between level-3 and level-4 automation is that level-4 vehicles are able to step in themselves if things go wrong or if there is a system failure. In this sense, these cars are left completely to their own devices without any human intervention in the vast majority of situations, although the option to manually override does remain if need be.
Vehicles of this type can run on the road autonomously but there is still a need for further legislation and infrastructure development to enable this outside a restricted area (normally built-up areas with low and medium speed limits). Many use cases are geared towards ridesharing such as:
- Magna (MAX4) – Lyft
- Volvo and Baidu, which have recently announced a strategic alliance to develop the electric robo-taxi market in China.
Level 5: Totally autonomous
Level-5 vehicles require no human attention at all. This implies a knock-on change in interior vehicle design, such as elimination of the driving wheel and braking and acceleration pedals. It will be possible to drive in any environment with the same expertise as a skilled human driver. Vehicles of this type are now being tried out in different spots but will not be available to the public for several years yet. According to the European Parliament true level-5 autonomous driving will be brought in as from 2030.
The main ADAS applications
Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) packages involve a set of sensors and technology that are capable of weighing up various risk factors in manual and autonomous driving (the most advanced) and we can consider them as falling within level-2 automation. They can be broken down into two families:
– Passive systems: use of daytime driving lights, tire pressure sensors, seatbelt advisor, etc.
Applications of this type are paving the way towards more advanced automation levels and are now available in various vehicles.
As you can see, the autonomous car will be with us in a few years as new technology is phased in, technology on which GMV is now busily working away. What’s your take on this issue?
Las opiniones vertidas por el autor son enteramente suyas y no siempre representan la opinión de GMV
The author’s views are entirely his own and may not reflect the views of GMV