We are already in the era of autonomous driving

We are already in the era of autonomous driving


2023 could bea guaranteed year of independent driving. According tothe latest IDTechEx reportIn fact, the automotive industry’s automation technologies are now mature, however not yet they are not everywhere in the newspaper.

We have seen that too, especially in relation to i robot taxi whose ships, in 2022, have increased and spread in China and the United States, due to the joint work of companies such as They are there And Cruise and developers alike Geely, Stellantis, Tesla And General Motors.

2022: the best year for car radars

Let’s start from the truth, and from 2022 that has revealed itself a unique year for ADAS systems and semi-autonomous driving. At the beginning of the year, cars began to be equipped with radar 4D photography new generation, with a significant increase in performance compared to the old generation. Among the first cars with 4D imaging, BMW iX (this is our proof) and Continental’s ARS450; and Feifan R7, ZF style Chinese car.

Volvo EX90

In addition to 4D imaging, another technology is on the way, LiDAR, which has been heralded for years as a breakthrough, but for years very expensive. me Mercedes S-Class And Volvo EX90 the first cars to have this new system, and Illuminationis also used by Polestar on 3 and from SAIC. Toyota and Lexus use Continental and Denso, Audi A8 and some Mercedes use Valeo, while BMW and Volkswagen have chosen Innoviz. But the list is huge, making 2023 the year of LiDAR.

I’m surprised that this isn’t new technology: it’s been around since the 1960s. Early versions were simple, and used in aerospace and defense. But over the years, LiDAR has gained the ability to measure angles and speeds, and produce detailed 3D maps. In the 2000s, benefits were also seen for vehicles because LiDAR can provide the same capabilities as radar at a much higher resolution.

Robotics in the US between the takeover of Cruise and the decline of Waymo

In 2022 the real breakthrough of autonomous driving was held in San Francisco, where the commercial robotaxis services of various companies began. It is not an easy goal, and one that is part of a path full of obstacles. The first was Cruise, a subsidiary of GMwhich began its journey in October 2020, the month in which it received the first driverless test permit from California, that is, being able to drive around cars without anyone inside.

self-drive cruise
SAN FRANCISCO – SEP 26 2015: Buildings in the city of San Francisco. The average rent in the city is over 1,353.63 ″u20ac per month. That’s higher than other major cities in the United States

Almost a year later, in June 2021, the approval was extended the possibility of providing transportation to citizens without a driver on boardfree for them. In September of the same year, Waymo, an Alphabet (Google) company, also received approval for driverless employment, and finally in June 2022, the California Public Utilities Commission authorized Cruise to operate. real commercial service.

This means being able to go to San Francisco and ride Robotaxis around, but in practice we are still young, and in a few places. Indeed, it is currently possible to use 30 of the 150 vehicles in the Cruise ship, limited to 50 km / h and in service between 22.00 and 6.00 in the morning. In short, one the revolution is still “stuck”but it is definitely an important step.

In short, Cruise seems to be the company ahead, and it seems that Waymo, previously in the piece, has lagged behind. The reason may be related to the increase in measurements in San Francisco, which has caused various problems; or perhaps the permits obtained by Cruise have slowed down Alphabet’s development, at least in the Bay Area.

Waymo has dropped the standards, and has reduced performance from 30,000 kilometers for non-participation to around 12,000. Therefore, its decline has reduced the average of the first three operators in the sector, but in any case, although it has decreased, the company is evaluating the possibility of implementing its service in Los Angeles, an easier city from an urban point of view because it has a more convenient road network for robots than San Francisco.

The Chinese experience

Another major player in autonomous driving is China: even in the People’s Republic of China the autonomous robot axis is becoming more and more widespread, with great progress Baidu, Pony ai and AutoX, the leading Chinese operator. Actually, the first two they are doing tests in Beijing and in the capital they have established commercial robotaxi services, after obtaining permission from the authorities.

Compared to American driverless sedans, however, the Mandarin giants still have to leave the operator on board, sitting in the front passenger seat. Also in this case, the limits refer to the number of vehicles, working hours and performance areas. Baidu will be able to work with ten vehicles between 10.00 and 16.00, while Pony.ai will be able to use only four between 9 and 17. In both cases, the area is just under 40 square kilometers.

Pony ai

AutoX, on the other hand, has been expanding its service in Shenzhen for over a year, operating in an area three times the size of Beijing’s 105 square kilometers.

Complexity of roboshuttles and robotaxis

Autonomy applied to transportation services is popular because of the possibility to customize the service. Indeed, the drive for a future powered by roboshuttles, even flying ones, is that these small shared vehicles will be able to operate more easily than a bus, in different ways and on demand. A mix between taxi and shared mobility.

A technology that seems new, but a development that was born more than 10 years ago, when they went around on isolated roads and with integrated drive systems. At that time, they were equivalent to a very cheap and slow train, a modern version that has been operating since 2010. The pioneering companies are EasyMile and Navya, both French and both receiving a loan of around 100 million euros from Paris, and which over the years they have provided 200 vehicles to various transport companies and organizations.

The problem, however, is that the initial enthusiasm seems to have already faded, and the number of companies that are actively working on roboshuttles seems to have reached its peak. There are companies like Local Motors that have closed, and others like Continental and Bosch that have submitted projects in the past, but have not developed them.

Navya itself is still the industry leader, but sales have decreased since 2018, certainly also because of the battery. According to IDTechEx, although a partial recovery is expected, but the decrease will continue also due to regulations, because in several regions the road car requires a very long list of engineering characteristics and parameters to be adopted, including belts, brakes, lights, low level. a number of wheels, some of which are structurally absent from roboshuttles, as they are born from scratch without a driver. In which the steering wheel, pedal controls, rear-view mirrors and speedometer are missing, and for this reason cannot be connected.

Only the NHTSA has changed the law, specifying that driverless cars that do not carry people do not require seat belts and airbags. Progress, perhaps, but at the moment it is very limited.

Interest in self-driving trucks

Great interest seems to have been aroused by self-driving trucks, who have quickly become one of the most rewarding prospects of the year. This is because all conditions are in place for the industry to explode in the next few years. Starting with the shortage of drivers in the USA, China and Europe due to the aging of the population, which does not bring spare parts; the growth of e-commerce and the need to increase the transportation of goods by road.

There is also an interaction between the capabilities of modern autonomous technology and the demands of the environment in which the vehicles will operate. The first will be distribution centers separated by medians, which eliminate the most difficult conditions for self-driving cars, pedestrians, stop signs, and unsafe left turns.

Finally, the autonomous truck can lead to a significant increase in productivity. Most trips in the US take several days to complete for human drivers due to daily driving limits, and this is even more true of trips in Europe. Self-driving cars, of course, will not be affected by this problem, potentially cutting transport times in half.

What to expect from 2023

2023 therefore predicts three trends. First, the expansion of robotaxis: it is unlikely that many new cities will be brought online, but services will grow in those that are already established.

Autonomous commercial transport, which will see the first commercial routes of driverless trucks in the year. Initially it will be one route, probably Tucson-Phoenix, but more routes may come online later this year.

Finally, a large number of cars a level of independent driving 3 in Europe, thanks to the best performing radar and LiDAR. In addition to Volvo and Mercedes, BMW and Stellantis will also launch models with this technology. In addition, the UK and other European countries will allow the use of level 3 autonomous driving, following Germany which until now was the only European country to allow it.

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