Self-driving cars are coming, its time we get ready for them.
While much of the world focuses on the transition to electric vehicles, there’s another, perhaps more important race underway. Autonomous, or self-driving vehicles and they’re not as far away as you think, with amazing progress being made in recent years.
The issue of regulatory approval and ensuring these are safe, is something every country will need to resolve. After watching the progress from automakers like Tesla and their FSD beta, it’s clear we’re not too far away from these being ready from a technology standpoint (Musk predicts by the end of 2021).
To enable the transition from humans to computers operating the vehicle, legislation is required. Germany says a law on autonomous driving is just a temporary solution until there are regulations at international level.
Most driver assist technologies implemented in vehicles today like lane keeping or centering, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warnings, are all safety improvements, which had a fairly easy entry into our cars.
Today, most systems land somewhere between Level 2 and 3 on the ranking for Self-driving cars, while Level 4 represents a dramatic step change to responsibility of a driver. Under level 4, automakers can be responsible for the operation of the car, rather than human drivers, opening a landmine of legal questions, hopefully addressed by legislation.
There are a number of technology stacks being developed by automakers, so its important to have the safety tests in place and well understood, before any automaker comes knocking on the regulators door, to have a Level 4+ vehicle approved for use on the roads.
Let’s hope Australia and many other countries around the world, also follow suit and are ready for this innovation, as this can genuinely save lives. There’s plenty of road vehicle accident data that shows that drivers are distracted by mobile phones, impaired by fatigue or alcohol and drugs, which not only risks their lives, but the other road users.
Autonomous vehicles, after meeting a safety benchmark, can enable drivers to become passengers and finally do tasks like texting, safely, offering the first real solution to the problem, as our current system of fines, has done little to deter this behavior.
Once legislators are presented with data that proves a Level 4 system is safer (hopefully much safer) than humans, and that it would save lives, it would be a brave politician to vote against it.
While there are small trials for autonomous vehicles, a new statement by Federal Transportation Minister Andreas Scheuer, tells us Germany is striving to be the first place to have country-wide legislation to enable autonomy.
Germany will be the first country in the world to bring autonomous vehicles from its research laboratories onto the road – today we have come a decisive step closer to this goal. I am very pleased that the cabinet has cleared the way for our law on autonomous driving.Germany’s Federal Minister Andreas Scheuer
The draft is now being sent to the Bundestag and Bundesrat for further discussion. We need rapid implementation for the innovations in the transformation process.
I am sure that we will come to groundbreaking agreements here too, so that Germany can continue to be the number 1 international leader in autonomous driving.
Levels of vehicle automation
- Partially automated driving (level 2): This is state of the art today. The applications that the car can take over are becoming more and more complex – even if the driver still has to keep an eye on the system. These applications include, for example, motorway assistance systems. The motorway assistant takes over the automatic lateral and longitudinal guidance up to a certain speed and within certain limits (lane keeping possible).
- Highly automated driving (level 3): Cars take over for defined applications, e.g. B. when driving on motorways independently performance such as braking, steering, changing lanes or overtaking. If a situation can no longer be dealt with automatically, the driver is asked to take over.
The technical regulation required for level 3 was adopted at UN level in June 2020 and is expected to come into force at the beginning of 2021 after a six-month notification period.
- Fully automated driving (level 4): As in level 3, the system takes full control of defined applications and then no longer needs to be monitored. If the automation mode has to be exited, the system prompts the driver to take over, if this is provided by the design. If there is no response, the system can automatically (unlike level 3) put the vehicle in the low-risk state (for example, by coming to a standstill on the hard shoulder).
Driverless applications are also made possible in which it is no longer possible to take over the driving task. All occupants become passengers. Passengers can at least initiate the emergency stop.
- Autonomous driving (level 5): The vehicle moves without a driver. The person becomes a passenger, there is no longer any need to intervene in the driving process.