Will autonomous driving be the only option for future generations?
Autonomous driving (AD) is a concept that has been around for longer than most of us think. Seventy-two years have passed since the introduction of cruise control, the antecedent of autonomous driving. Fast forward to present day and we are now nearing the development of entirely driverless cars; however, this auto ecosystem is fraught with varying approaches and technologies.
The multitude of players in the space, each developing their own AD technology, has created the need for a system of classification, even before driverless cars become widespread. SAE International defines six levels of autonomy to classify all automotive vehicles. The most significant leap in the scale occurs between levels three and four, in which the primary responsibility of driving shifts from a human driver to the IT system.
We see an example of level four autonomy from Arizona-based company, Waymo, last November, they managed to place vehicles on public roads without a person in the driver’s seat. Earlier last year, Tesla announced its release of the “Model 3″ with a full automation.
|0||No Automation||The human driver is in charge of the full-time performance of the vehicle.||Porsche 911|
|1||Driver Assistance||The system could assist only in steering or acceleration/deceleration based on certain information about the environment||Adaptive cruise control|
|2||Partial Automation||The system could assist in both steering and acceleration/deceleration based on certain information about the environment||Volvo Pilot Assist|
|3||Conditional Automation||The dynamic driving task is performed by the system with the guidance of the human driver.||Audi Traffic Jam Pilot|
|4||High Automation||The system is in charge of all the aspects of the dynamic driving task even if the human driver does not respond to a request to intervene.||Waymo test in Arizona|
|5||Full Automation||The IT system is in charge of the full-time performance of the vehicle without human intervention.||Tesla Model 3 (mid 2018)|
Though driverless cars are indeed quickly becoming a reality thanks to the efforts of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and tech giants that are betting on this revolutionary development, two outstanding obstacles remain to be overcome: the facilitation of communication between and among the environment and gaining consumer trust.
The lack of reliable communication between vehicles to infrastructure (V2I) and vehicles to other vehicles (V2V) represents one of the largest barriers to a completely driverless ecosystem. Several unanticipated incidents can occur which require the vehicle to change course (e.g. road construction). A similarly considerable hurdle is consumer skepticism about vehicle safety. Consumer skepticism is stronger than their willingness to fund the research and development needed to rapidly advance AD technology. Consumers need exposure to more successful examples before they can trust and invest in this somewhat radical technology and bring driverless cars to market.
When driverless cars eventually do make their way into the mainstream, we anticipate the emergence of several questions that will permeate not just the auto industry, but several others, as well. The following are just a few. How will we regulate interactions between driverless and human-controlled vehicles? How will insurance premiums and cost structures change? What will the travel industry look like? Will governments consider partnerships with private companies to improve mobility? We will investigate these and other questions in future posts.