Is it time to admit that self-driving cars aren’t coming anytime soon? Considering the recent progress, it can be said that few people still believe in this project
Truly autonomous cars will never see the light of day, or so some critics believe. The elements supporting this thesis have been accumulating for years, even decades, but they have now tipped the scales in a direction that is hard to ignore for anyone interested, even those who were previously very optimistic about the prospects. .
Researchers predict that by 2025 we will see around 8 million autonomous or semi-autonomous cars on the road. Self-driving cars will first have to go through six levels of technological development in driver assistance before they can hit the road. What exactly are these levels? And where are we today?
In a tweet on July 03, 2021, Tesla CEO Elon Musk finally admitted that he always underestimated the challenge of developing a safe and reliable autonomous vehicle. Lots of promises to finally be on the way to reality. Haha, the beta version of FSD 9 is coming soon, I swear! Pervasive self-driving is a challenging problem because it requires many real-world AI solutions. I did not expect it to be so difficult, but the difficulty is obvious in retrospect, Elon Musk said on his Twitter account. Nothing has more degrees of freedom than reality.
Autopilot is an advanced driver assistance system that improves driving safety and comfort. When used correctly, Autopilot reduces the overall workload as a driver. Tesla says that every new Tesla vehicle is equipped with 8 external cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and an on-board computer that provides an extra layer of safety to help the driver on their journey.
Tesla officially overtook Toyota Motor Corporation in June 2020 to become the world’s largest automaker by market capitalization. The automaker’s stock was worth more than any other automaker on earth. CEO Elon Musk has always said Autopilot is reliable. In 2018, Musk said that by 2019, there will be more than one million fully autonomous cars.
Previous studies by the American Automobile Association (AAA) have shown that some systems, especially those that offer the highest level of automation to the public, don’t always work as intended. These negative experiences may influence drivers’ perceptions of vehicle automation.
AAA’s survey on automated vehicles in early 2021 shows that only 22% of people think manufacturers should focus on developing self-driving vehicles. Most drivers, 80%, say they want existing car safety systems like automatic emergency braking and lane keep assist to work better. More than half, or 58%, say they want these automatic systems in their next car.
“People are willing to embrace new automotive technology, especially if it makes driving safer,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering and industry relations.
Consumers know exactly what they want, and if automakers take this opportunity to deliver a better experience, it will pave the way for the cars of tomorrow. About 96% of 2020 car models are equipped with at least one advanced driver assistance system (ADAS), such as automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning or lane keeping assist. Consumers purchasing a new car will likely have at least one of these types of safety systems, and in many cases, this may be their first interaction with more advanced automotive technology.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines 6 levels of control automation
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines 6 driving automation levels ranging from 0 (fully manual) to 5 (fully autonomous). These levels are adopted by the US Department of Transportation.
Level 0 (no driving automation)
Most cars in circulation today are level 0: they are manually operated. Even when systems are activated to assist the driver, the human takes on the task of dynamic driving. For example, an emergency braking system that does not technically drive the vehicle is not considered automation.
Level 1 (driver assistance)
This is the lowest level of automation. The vehicle is equipped with a single automated driving assistance system such as steering or acceleration (cruise control). Adaptive cruise control, which helps keep the car at a safe distance from the vehicle below, is Level 1, as the human driver controls other aspects of driving, such as steering and braking.
Level 2 (partial driving automation)
These are advanced driver assistance systems or ADAS. The vehicle can control both direction and acceleration/deceleration. At this point, automation doesn’t go as far as autonomous driving, because a human sits in the driver’s seat and can control the car at any time. Tesla’s Autopilot and Cadillac’s (General Motors) Super Cruise systems are both Level 2 compliant.
Level 3 (Conditional Driving Automation)
The transition from level 2 to level 3 is important from a technological point of view, but subtle, if not insignificant, from a human point of view. Level 3 vehicles have environmental sensing capabilities and can make informed decisions on their own, such as accelerating to pass a slower vehicle. But they still require human intervention. If the system is unable to perform the task, the driver must be alert and ready to take control.
Almost two years ago, Audi (Volkswagen) announced that the next generation of the A8 – its flagship sedan – would be the world’s first production Tier 3 car. And they kept their word. The 2019 Audi A8L arrives at commercial dealerships this fall. It features Traffic Jam Pilot, which combines a lidar scanner with advanced sensor synthesis and processing power (plus built-in backups in case of component failure).
However, as Audi developed its engineering marvel, the regulatory process in the United States shifted from a federal focus to state mandates for autonomous vehicles. So, for now, the A8L is classified as a Tier 2 vehicle in the US and will be delivered without the basic hardware and software needed to achieve Tier 3 functionality. However, in Europe, Audi will launch the A8L Tier 3. Traffic Pilot (first in Germany).
Level 4 (push driving automation)
The main difference between Level 3 and Level 4 automation is that Level 4 vehicles can kick in when things go wrong or there is a system failure. In this sense, these cars do not require human interaction in most cases. However, the man always has the option to cancel it manually.
Level 4 vehicles can operate in autonomous driving mode. But until laws and infrastructure change, they can only do so in a limited area (typically an urban environment where top speeds average 30 mph). This is called gofencing. So, most of the existing Tier 4 vehicles are designed for driving cars.
- French company NAVYA already builds and sells Level 4 shuttles and taxis in the United States that are all-electric and can reach speeds of up to 55 mph;
- Alphabet’s Waymo recently launched its Level 4 self-driving taxi service in Arizona, where it tested self-driving cars — without a safety driver in the seat — for more than a year and over 10 million kilometers;
- Canadian automotive supplier Magna has developed technology (MAX4) to provide Level 4 capabilities in urban and highway environments. It has partnered with Lyft to provide high-tech kits that turn vehicles into self-driving cars;
- A few months ago, Volvo and Baidu announced a strategic partnership to jointly develop Level 4 electric vehicles to serve the robotaxis market in China.
Level 5 (full driving automation)
Level 5 vehicles do not require human attention – the “dynamic driving task” is eliminated. Tier 5 cars won’t even have a steering wheel, gas pedals, or brake pedals. They will be free from attack, they will be able to go anywhere and do everything that an experienced driver can do. Fully autonomous vehicles are being tested in several parts of the world, but none have yet been released to the general public.
Ford has announced that Argo AI has been discontinued
Ford has announced that it is discontinuing Argo AI, which is backed by automaker Volkswagen and is dedicated to developing Level 4 autonomous driving technologies. Third-quarter results followed a few hours later, showing that it had not only discontinued Argo, but also discontinued operations. it also deprioritises Tier 4 technologies to focus on in-house driver assistance systems (ADAS).
Ford CEO Jim Farley justified the move at the company’s earnings conference by saying that large-scale, affordable, fully autonomous cars are far from a reality and that we don’t need to create this technology ourselves. Those words echoed the sentiments of the younger, more tech-savvy automaker’s CEO at last week’s Disrupt conference in San Francisco.
While Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe said the company is aiming to eventually introduce Level 4 autonomy, the plan is to focus primarily on ADAS L2 and L3, expeditionary vehicles that are limited to Level 3 due to current equipment limitations. He added that he believes Tier 4 is currently possible for companies with the appropriate advanced equipment set in cars, provided they are confined to a specific location.
It’s time to admit that self-driving cars aren’t here anytime soon. Do you agree?
How do you feel about the topic?
According to a survey by the American Automobile Association, 86% of drivers fear riding in self-driving cars.
Autonomous cars: why the heralded revolution is still long overdue? Would Uber and Waymo change their minds?