Understanding the Future of Autonomous Driving
In August of this year, the founder of a certain brand drove the NIO ES8 on August 12 and unfortunately passed away in a traffic accident when the NOP automatic navigation assisted driving function was turned on. This is the second fatal accident in NIO within half a month, and it is also the first fatal accident in NIO’s Level 2 autopilot system, which has attracted widespread attention and discussion on the Internet. The accident once again sounded the alarm for the use of autonomous driving systems.
Car companies should not over-promote the capabilities of autonomous driving to consumers. As a consumer, the current Level 2 automation level of autonomous driving vehicles is far from the driver’s relaxed state of “sleeping, watching drama, eating” and so on. There is still a big technological gap. Therefore, a correct understanding of the level of autonomous driving is a compulsory course related to life.
What is an unmanned vehicle?
Understand the definition of driverless vehicle levels
To understand what an unmanned vehicle is, one must first understand the definition of the level of autonomous driving. According to the definition of SAE (International Society of Automata Engineers, original translation: “Society of Automotive Engineers”), there are six levels of autonomous driving.
Level 1-2 requires the driver to take over vehicle support functions, including limited warnings and instantaneous assistance, such as blind-spot warning, lane departure warning, and automatic emergency braking. Although Level 1-2 vehicles have support functions, the driver still has to perform steering, braking, or acceleration controls as needed to ensure the safety of people and vehicles.
When the automatic driving function is put into use, Level 3-5’s dependence on the driver gradually decreases. Level 3 and Level 4 autopilot functions can realize autopilot under the premise of meeting limited conditions. Level 5 vehicles can drive autonomously under all conditions and are considered fully autonomous (unmanned driving).
Definition of Autonomous Driving Level (Source: SAE)
Autonomous vehicles and unmanned vehicles
In the final analysis, the amount of manual intervention required can indicate whether the vehicle is autonomous or unmanned. The former requires some degree of human intervention to accept orders, while the latter does not require human intervention.
Self-driving vehicles are very common, equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection, and lane departure warning, which are safety alerts that most consumers are familiar with. But it should not be confused with the concept of a true self-driving vehicle. A fully autonomous vehicle can determine where the car will go and how fast it will travel. It will make a decision in real-time regardless of whether humans are present. However, this technology has not yet been implemented.
For example, Tesla Autopilot is a self-driving vehicle function, but its name is causing confusion for consumers. Consumers have accidents because they think it is a fully driverless vehicle, not a car that is sufficiently driverless. Drivers must truly understand the difference between the two vehicle types in order to know when they need to turn their attention back to the road and ensure safety.
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Driverless vehicles today
Autonomous driving vs. unmanned driving
According to SAE’s definition, Level 5 vehicles are self-driving cars, while self-driving cars are Level 4 and below. Self-driving cars still require manual control or intervention by the driver in the event of any unqualified conditions.
On the other hand, unmanned vehicles can fully detect their surroundings and respond safely and appropriately without any human intervention. Fully autonomous vehicles can effectively replace the driver.
Today, autonomous vehicles mainly include autonomous shuttle buses, pilot cars, and robotic taxis. These vehicles can not only realize autonomous driving but also realize the ability to pick up and drop off passengers without the presence of a driver or any passengers.
Today, autonomous vehicles mainly include autonomous shuttle buses, pilot cars, and robotic taxis. So far, the best representative case of Level 4 vehicles is Waymo’s robot project. In recent months, other companies such as Daimler and General Motors have also made tremendous progress in Level 4 autonomous driving technology. Ford and Lyft are preparing to promote the largest robotic taxi business to date.
Advantages of Autonomous vehicles
The past and present of autonomous technology
It will take a few years to evolve from Level 4 to Level 5. However, when we finally reach this milestone, the driving technology landscape will change in several ways.
The impact of driverless technology is not new. In fact, around 1900, the installation of the first escalator caused widespread public fear and hesitation. Prior to this, the elevator has a dedicated person responsible for running, greeting, and guiding guests.
Over time, about 50 years later, the public has gradually become accustomed to escalators. After elevator workers went on strike on September 24, 1945, the public accelerated their acceptance of this change in automatic elevators. In 1950, Otis Elevator installed the first fully automatic elevator at the Atlantic Oil Refining Company in Dallas, Texas. By the 1970s, most elevators were operating without operators.
When studying the long-term effects of switching from manually operated elevators to fully automatic elevators, humans found that automatic elevators are safer than human-operated elevators. Although elevator staff must be trained in advance, accidents are still common. In the era of manual operation, people were injured or even killed when the elevator fell and the elevator was trapped.
Today, unmanned vehicles have the same potential advantages in providing safer and more reliable transportation. After driving more than 6 million miles in the Phoenix area, Waymo reported that there were no single-vehicle accidents, which is comparable to human drivers. In addition, in the event that occurred, the driver/road user presented the vehicle’s error code in some way.
Although there is still a lot of research work, with the advancement of Level 4 technology, we will have a deeper understanding and ability to solve the safety problems of Level 4 unmanned vehicles.
The ability to influence specific industries is also an important advantage for the development of unmanned vehicles. Industries such as trucking, carpooling, and agricultural vehicles have all expressed their willingness to invest in this technology.
Market research and consulting company Fact recently released a report on automatic agricultural equipment. MR pointed out that by 2031, the market will reach 150 billion U.S. dollars. Population growth requires more sustainable food and increased environmental awareness. Machines work longer and work more efficiently than humans. Unmanned vehicles can automatically respond to weather data. Based on the above factors, Fact.MR has made a corresponding market size forecast.
In the field of truck transportation, companies such as Waymo and Kodiak Robotics have been testing autonomous driving technology for autonomous trucks in Texas and the West Coast for nearly five years. Similar to farms (and elevators), driving a truck can be dangerous and exhausting. Autonomous driving and driverless technologies can help companies that require such services to reduce risk and increase productivity.
The announcement of the driverless car pilot program approved by California and the first self-driving car test in the downtown area of New York City shows that related companies are implementing long-term plans in more commercial spaces for the sake of human personal interests.
Driverless cars not only provide convenience, but for the disabled, the elderly, or individuals and families who urgently need transportation solutions, the convenience of transportation may change their lives. In recent years, there have been news reports that self-driving cars have an impact on the lives of blind people and people with limited mobility.
Lidar’s impact on the future of unmanned vehicles
Lidars and radar devices help autonomous vehicles and unmanned vehicles operate effectively and safely. Today, when we see the development of autonomous vehicles, we also see the evolution of lidar and technology. With the development of completely independent technology, lidar has an extremely important impact on ADAS and higher-level automation.