Autonomous driving promises to change the nature of the car and of personal vehicle ownership, and make road travel safer. The nature of the technology necessitates a slow rollout, and it won’t happen overnight. But the nature of personal transport is set to change for the first time since the introduction of affordable cars over 100 years ago. When fully autonomous vehicles can be summoned on demand, there will be less need for personal ownership, and when vehicles are shared, the number of public parking spaces required will also be reduced.
The new driver assistance applications that will become available over the next few years will gradually assume more of the responsibility for steering, speed, and braking, and sensors will remain constantly vigilant for obstacles in the road, something that cannot be said for drivers in general, as accident statistics show. While Google gets headlines for its pioneering work, Daimler is the first OEM to bring an autopilot system into production.
The 2014 Mercedes S Class, with a production date of fall 2013, illustrates the latest technology that Daimler considers ready for production. The optional stop-go pilot can steer, brake, and drive automatically, at speeds of up to 30 mph in heavy traffic. The driver can always retake control instantly. The car’s braking system detects pedestrians or vehicles in city traffic and applies the brakes automatically to avoid a crash. A rearward-facing radar system can also recognize a potential rear collision and turn on the rear hazard lights to warn the driver behind.
Scanning the Road, In All Directions
Equipped with the latest image processing technology, the forward-facing camera can not only identify the lane markings for the steering to follow, but can also detect bumps and potholes on the road ahead and automatically adjust the suspension settings accordingly. Multiple radar sensors (long- and mid-range) scan the road ahead for obstacles, assisted by stereo and infrared cameras. Short-range radar and ultrasonic sensors watch for low-speed obstacles and assist in parking.
All together, the vehicle has six cameras and six radar sensors to cover the full 360° around the vehicle. Intelligent Drive is the label Mercedes has given the collection of systems that monitor conditions, warn the driver, and intervene when necessary. A Daimler spokesman indicated at the press launch that there are additional autonomous features that could be offered, but public awareness and legislation in many countries led the company to delay introduction until the next model upgrade.
Indeed, while the technology is ready to go and exhaustive testing is underway at all of the major OEMs, issues of liability and legality remain to be resolved before the full benefits of autonomous driving can be realized. Properly implemented, autonomous driving is the only way to reduce the huge number of casualties on roads that result from driver error.
Navigant Research will publish its first report and forecast on autonomous driving in June 2013. We expect the first vehicles with self-driving options to be on the market by 2020, and the market to grow strongly from 2025.
Tags: Autonomous Vehicles, Clean Transportation, Daimler, Electric Vehicles, Smart Transportation Program
| No Comments »