DEFINITIONS OF THE 6 SAE LEVELS OF SELF-DRIVING AUTOMATION FOR AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES
- Level 0 – No Automation: The full-time performance by the human driver of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even when enhanced by warning or intervention systems;
- Level 1 – Driver Assistance: The driving mode-specific execution by a driver assistance system of either steering or acceleration/deceleration using information about the driving environment and with the expectation that the human driver performs all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task;
- Level 2 – Partial Automation: The driving mode-specific execution by one or more driver assistance systems of both steering and acceleration/deceleration using information about the driving environment and with the expectation that the human driver performs all remaining aspects of the dynamic driving task;
- Level 3 – Conditional Automation: The driving mode-specific performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task with the expectation that the human driver will respond appropriately to a request to intervene;
- Level 4 – High Automation: The driving mode-specific performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task, even if a human driver does not respond appropriately to a request to intervene;
- Level 5 – Full Automation: The full-time performance by an Automated Driving System of all aspects of the dynamic driving task under all roadway and environmental conditions that can be managed by a human driver.
AUTONOMOUS CARS IN THE NEWS
Week 2 2018 - NXP launches Automated Drive Kit
The world’s largest supplier of semiconductors to the auto industry, NXP, launched its Automated Drive Kit at the CES 2018. The NXP Automated Drive Kit allows for the open, fast and flexible development of Level 3 self-driving systems and will expand to higher levels of autonomy in time. The Drive Kit is a software-enabled platform that enables carmakers and suppliers to develop, test and deploy autonomous algorithms and applications quickly on an open and flexible platform with an expanding ecosystem of partners. According to a press release by the NXP:
“The first release of the Automated Drive Kit will include a front vision system based on NXP’s S32V234 processor, allowing customers to deploy their algorithms of choice. The Kit also includes front camera application software APIs and Object Detection Algorithms provided by Neusoft; a leading IT solutions and services provider in China and a strategic ADAS and AD partner to NXP. Additionally, the Kit includes sophisticated radar options and GPS positioning technology. Customers choose from various LiDAR options and can add LiDAR Object Processing (LOP) modular software from AutonomouStuff, which provides ground segmentation and object tracking.”
Week 2 2018 - Nissan and NASA co-operation
Nissan and Nasa are extending their five-year research co-operation partnership to develop a working demonstration of SAM (Nissan Seamless Autonomous Mobility) by 2019. First introduced at the CES 2017 Nissan developed SAM from NASA technology used to managing interplanetary rovers as they move around unpredictable landscapes. SAM is used to managing autonomous transportation services. According to Nissan “SAM represents a major milestone in Nissan Intelligent Integration, providing the infrastructure to safely and seamlessly integrate autonomous mobility services into existing urban environments.”
Week 45 2017 - Waymo to ditsch safety drivers
After eight years of developing autonomous driving systems, Waymo entered a new chapter in the race to bring the first self-driving vehicle to market by starting the testing of driverless cars without safety drivers at the wheel. The testing is conducted on public roads in Phoenix, Arizona with a fleet of Chrysler Pacifica mini-vans and follows relaxation of the autonomous testing rules by the authorities in October. According to Waymo through a post on Medium, the company will also invite members of the public to take part in the testing in the next few months.
Week 45 2017 - Siemens test e-highway in Los Angeles
Siemens and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) are conducting the company’s first e-highway demonstration in the USA on a stretch of road between Long Beach and Los Angeles. According to the company, the cost of the project amounted to $13.4 million.
Week 44 2017 - SsangYong gets approval to test self-driving tech
The Korean automaker SsangYong will start testing its autonomous vehicle technology on public roads in Korea. The SAE Level 3 system will be mounted on Tivoli SUV. SsangYong is accelerating its autonomous vehicle development to get in line with the Korean Government’s plans to commercialize self-driving by 2020.
Week 44 2017 - Ford and Qualcomm to test C-V2X tech
Ford, AT&T, Nokia and chipmaker Qualcomm partnered around developing C-V2X (cellular vehicle to everything) technology for commercial deployment in 2020. The partnership will commence testing at the San Diego Regional Proving Ground and aims to demonstrate the cost-efficient benefits associated with embedded cellular technology in vehicles and synergies between the deployment of cellular base stations and roadside infrastructure to improve safety and driving efficiency.
Week 43 2017 - Autonomous vehicle news of the past week
The UK automotive technology company, Delphi Automotive, this week acquired Boston based nuTonomy for a total purchase price of $450 million. According to a press release by the company the acquisition is to accelerate commercialization of its autonomous driving (AD) and Automated Mobility-on-Demand (AMoD) solutions for automakers and new mobility customers worldwide. Delphi is expected to have a fleet of 60 autonomous vehicles in Singapore and other pilot cities on three continents by year-end, with the goal to further accelerate global fleet expansion and technology development. The latest acquisition is the latest in a series of investments by Delphi to expand its leadership position in the new mobility space. Previous investments include that of AD software developer Ottomatika and data service companies Control-Tec and Movimento.
Nissan this week demonstrated a prototype of its most advanced autonomous driving technology which it is currently testing on public roads in an around Tokyo. The next-generation ProPilot kitted on an Infiniti Q50 is planned for release by the Japanese automaker in 2020. The NextGen ProPilot AI system uses inputs from 12 sonars, 12 cameras, nine millimeter-wave radars, six laser scanners and a high-definition map to analyze complex scenarios in real time and navigate through challenging city traffic.
Week 42 2017 - Daimler unveils Autonomous snow plow
Daimler this week demonstrated the use of automated snow removal at the former Pferdsfeld airbase with four Mercedes Benz Arcs tractors. The demonstration builds on the automakers innovative Highway Pilot and Highway Pilot Connect systems presented earlier the year which allows for truck platooning. Clearing snow at airfields is a high precision task and a perfect application for autonomous driving. The development of the “Automated Airfield Ground Maintenance“ (AAGM) project was established in close cooperation between Lab1886, the Daimler innovation incubator, Daimler Trucks and Fraport AG, which operates one of the largest air traffic hubs in the world. The AAGM is guided by Daimler’s corporate strategy named CASE – connectivity (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use (Shared & Services) and electric powertrains (Electric).
Globes, an Israeli publication, reported that the government there opened a 1.5km three-lane highway exclusively for the testing of autonomous technologies. The Ministry of Transport invited five companies to test self-driving projects on the highway north of Herzliya over the next two months. The five companies are:
- Nexcar, testing a dashboard camera which is connected to the cloud for early warning;
- GM Israel, testing its autonomous vehicle;
- Mobileye, testing its latest developments;
- Innoviz, testing LiDAR remote sensing solutions;
- Argus Cyber Security, testing advanced connectivity with anti-hacking capability.
Week 39 2017 - Ford partners with Lyft to introduce self-driving
Following a recent announcement by Google that it would invest in Lyft another of Google’s autonomous partners, Ford announced that it would roll out self-driving cars on the ridesharing company’s network. Ford will test its self-driving cars equipped with the Argo AI virtual driver system on Lyft’s network. According to a blog post on Medium by Sherif Marakby, vice-president, Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification at Ford the deployment would aim to:
- Create Ford’s technology platform so that it can easily connect with a partner’s platform to effectively dispatch a self-driving vehicle;
- Which cities should we work with to deliver our self-driving vehicle service;
- The kind of infrastructure required to service and maintain a fleet of self-driving vehicles to ensure they are available whenever a consumer needs one?
Week 39 2017 - Baidu launch Apollo fund for self-driving tech
Baidu, China’s equivalent of Google and early entrant to self-driving cars raised $1.49 Bln (9.8 billion yuan) fund to develop self-driving cars. The Apollo Fund, as it is named, will invest in 100 autonomous projects over the next three years. The fund shares the same name as the search engines open source autonomous software. Version 1.5 of Apollo was released at the same time as the launch of the fund.
Week 37 2017 - Autonomous vehicle news of the past week
General Motors and its subsidiary, Cruise Automation, unveiled a production-ready self-driving car based on the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle. Up to now, autonomous cars are all hand build, a process that can only produce a couple of hundred cars a year, but presenting a self-driving car that is based on a mass-market platform is a game changer for GM.
Audi showcased the progress it made thus far on autonomous technology from SAE Levels 3 to 5 at the Frankfurt Auto Show this week, through three vehicles with autonomous capability. The Audi A8 with Traffic Jam Pilot, allowing full autonomy on highways up to speeds of 60kmh (37.3mph). The Audi Aicon, the German automaker’s Vision vehicle for self-driving. The Aicon, pictured below, has no pedals or steering wheel and is designed for purely electric operation and should be able to cover distances between 700 and 800 kilometers (435.0 – 497.1 mi) on a single charge. The company also introduced the Audi Elaine, an electric-powered SUV coupe that in a few short years will make highly automated driving possible – at times even without a driver on board.
USA Department of Transport issues simplified federal guidelines for autonomous driving eliminate the requirement for technology developers to apply for regulatory approval for launching autonomous technology.
Week 36 2017 - Autonomous vehicle news of the past week
Renault to unveil its autonomous vision, the Symbioz Concept, at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The Symbioz Concept will showcase how Renault sees autonomous, electric and connected mobility by 2030. The name SYMBIOZ is derived from ‘sumbiōsis’, the Ancient Greek word for ‘living together’. Renault believes that the automobile of the future will function harmoniously and in permanent interaction with its environment, road network infrastructure and the digital lifestyles of its occupants. The letter ‘Z’ at the end refers to the all-electric Z.E. technology that powers the car.
Torc Robotics has partnered with chipmaker NXP Semiconductors to improve its 360 degrees imaging providing real-time info about a vehicle’s surroundings to its self-driving systems according to a press release by the company. According to Techcrunch the goal for Torc is to help automotive OEMs, and top-tier suppliers negotiate the new landscape of self-driving, with guidance gleaned from their own experience, and with hardware and software platforms to fill in the gaps in existing automaker autonomy programs.
Delphi is said to add 100 more employees at its Pittsburgh unit to support its activities in autonomous driving, taking the team to 150 by next year, signaling an acceleration in the development of the technology. The team will support a fleet of up to 50 self-driving vehicles by the end of 2018. Delphi’s autonomous fleet which includes BMW‘s and Audi SUV’s will be complemented with Chrysler Pacifica mini-vans in the future according to The Incline.
Week 35 2017 - Autonomous vehicle news of the past week
Chinese automaker, JAC, and China’s Google, BAIDU, this week announced a partnership to develop a Level 3 mass market self-driving car for production in 2019, year after Audi will produce a level 3 capable Audi A8. Baidu launched its autonomous strategy, called Apollo, two months back. The Apollo strategy mimics that of Google, aiming to develop software for autonomous vehicles. Hardware partners to the Apollo program include Bosch. It’s still unclear how the strategic partners will develop the vehicle as testing of autonomous cars is not yet legal on Chinese roads. Baidu, however, has a permit to test autonomous cars on Californian roads. Other automakers, such as Volvo and Ford are targeting Level 4 autonomous vehicles by 2021.
Samsung Electronics this week acquired a permit to test self-driving cars on California’s public road system, making it the 38th company to be allowed to do so. Samsung started testing autonomous vehicles in South Korea in May 2017. See the full list of all 38 permit holders here and the result of the 2016 autonomous testing here.
The German auto supplier ZF, a global leader in driveline and chassis technology as well as active and passive safety technology, this week entered into a partnership with the University of Califonia to develop autonomous driving solutions. In a press release by the company its CEO, Dr. Stefan Sommer defined the partnership as follows – “Our latest research collaboration will significantly boost our Vision Zero Ecosystem in two areas that are key to fully autonomous driving – computer vision and deep learning.”
Week 34 2017 - Ford self-driving strategy, German ethics guide and other news
Germany which has adopted its self-driving law in May 2017 this week announced guidelines for autonomous vehicle software. According to Reuter’s the ethical guidelines of the rules is set to protect people at all cost above property or animals. Autonomous vehicle software is not to determine between sex, health or age of a person in deciding what to do in the event of avoiding an accident.
Tata Motors of India joined the UK’s autonomous drive testing project, named ‘UK Autodrive.’ The UK Autodrive program is conducted in Milton Keyes and Coventry and includes other automakers active in the UK market, including Tata, Jaguar Land Rover, and Ford. Tata is using its Tiago vehicle in the trials.
Hyundai will deploy an autonomous fleet for the 2018 Winter Olympics which is held in the city of Pyeongchang, South Korea during February 2018. The self-driving software will utilize Hyundai’s subsidiary, MnSOFT’s ultra-high-precision HD Map, with a margin of error of only 10cm as opposed to the 30 meters of previous maps. According to South Korean IT publication, etnews, Hyundai will supply a fleet of self-driving fuel-cell based SUVs and buses to ferry people over the 126km between the capital and the event venue.
According to the Korea Post Hyundai and it’s sister company Kia is testing V2X technology in partnership with the City if Hwaseong on a 14km section of road to test V2X (Vehicle to everything) systems. V2X technology is where the vehicle communicates on a real-time basis with the road on which it travels and includes traffic signals, other road users such a pedestrians and other vehicles.
Ford‘s new CEO, Jim Hackett, previously the Chairman of the US automakers Smart Mobility unit, sees a slower transition to completely autonomous vehicles. In an interview with SFGate, Jim Hackett said that he does not see the company’s vehicle revenue threatened by a sudden shift to robot cars leading to fewer vehicle sales. Although the Ford CEO remained committed to a 2021 target by its predecessor for Level 4 ride hailing vehicles he sees a more a more progressive transition than a sudden shift. He added that Ford believes vehicles will become smarter, allowing it to tap more revenue streams from its 100 million “users.” Ford recently acquired SF based ride-sharing company, Chariot, and autonomous tech company, Argo AI, to ensure that it remains relevant going into the future. In line with its 2021 strategy Ford also announced this week that it would include commercial delivery vehicles in its self-driving offering by 2021.
Week 33 2017 - FCA joins yet another self-driving alliance and other news
As the race for electric vehicles hots up so it does for autonomous vehicles as car makers try and regain the edge it lost in the EV sector to tech start-ups. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), dead-last in the EV race, this week joined the BMW Intel self-driving car alliance as the company gears-up to produce self-driving cars by 2021. The BMW led alliance also includes Intel’s recently acquired Israeli tech company, Mobileye, Delphi Automotive, and Continental. Together the alliance will have 140 self-driving test vehicles on the roads by the end of 2017. Interestingly enough FCA is also a partner with Google’s Waymo where it developed and deployed autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans.
The Michigan Economic Development Corp funded American Center for Mobility announced that it will start operating its autonomous vehicle testing ground in December 2017. The converted Willow Run facility, first used for airplane testing, is a two-and a half-mile highway test loop. Michigan, which has been one of the pro-active states in self-driving development invested around $110 million in the conversion and expects to develop a second facility by 2019 to represent urban driving conditions.
US Chipmaker, NVIDIA, which led the push into autonomous technologies ahead of its competitor Intel, this week announced its investment in two-year old Chinese self-driving truck start-up TuSimple. The undisclosed investment by NVIDIA was part of $20 million funding round led by Sina, the Chinese Social Media company. TuSimple recently completed a Level 4 autonomous trip from San Diego to Yuma, Arizona.
Week 30 2017 - Self-driving act progressing in the USA
The US House Energy and Commerce Committee this week advanced legislation designed to keep autonomous vehicles safe and promote the advancement of the technology. The self-driving act is billed as the PAVE Act, which expands the existing authorization of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to evaluate exemptions from federal motor vehicle safety standards only if there is no reduction in safety and increases the number of vehicles for which exemption may be granted. The exemption will help the advancement of the autonomous driving development by allowing the industry to collect data and help Government to recall self-driving cars for safety reasons. The act is becoming increasingly important as more and more companies and states get involved in the testing of self-driving technology. Ride-hailing company, Lyft, this week announced that it formed a self-driving division and will establish a self-driving research facility, named Level 5 in Palo Alto, California.
Week 27 2017 - VW partner with Kuka on autonomous tech
VW and robotics firm Kuka this week signed a new co-operation agreement to develop robot-based innovations for all-electric and autonomous automobiles. The new agreement will expand the existing e-smart Connect project which includes a practical and user-friendly solution for charging high-voltage batteries of electric vehicles pictured here charging the VW GenE research vehicle. The Kuka developed charger is a charging solution developed for parking garages.
The Volkswagen Group is planning a strategic e-mobility offensive in the course of realigning its drive strategy. By the end of 2018, more than ten new electrified models will be launched on the market. A further 30 models will follow by 2025. These will be all-electric battery-powered vehicles. In parallel, Porsche will manage the ongoing expansion of infrastructure for quick-charging stations. The Volkswagen Group is providing a vision for autonomous driving of the future with the “Sedric” concept car. Audi recently established Autonomous Intelligent Driving GmbH for self-drive systems. This company is carrying out work for the entire Volkswagen Group.
KUKA AG is one of the biggest providers of intelligent automation solutions and is the world’s leading manufacturer of production plants in the automobile industry. The Group’s own Research Department headquartered in Augsburg lays the technological fundamentals for innovations in industrial production and service robotics.
Week 25 2017 - Bumper week for autonomous tech
Ford this week publicly presented its autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid we reported on at the end of last year. The self-driving Fusion was put through its paces at the University of Michigan where it successfully navigated daily traffic conditions at a top speed of 25mph.
The French PSA Group announced that it plans to have a Level 3 self-driving vehicle by 2020 and introduce semi-autonomous DS 7 Crossback next year. The PSA systems are called ‘Traffic Jam Chauffeur’ and ‘Highway Chauffeur’.
Texas signed a bill authorizing testing of self-driving cars on public roads.
Week 24 2017 - GM produces autonomous Bolt
GM announced this week that it completed the equipment of 130 Chevrolet Bolt EVs with its next generation of self-driving technology. The vehicles will be added to its fleet of 50 current generation Bolt EVs testing the autonomous technology on public roads in San Francisco Scottsdale and Detroit. The company reported that the new generation technology features GM’s latest array of equipment, including LIDAR, cameras, sensors and other hardware designed to accelerate development of a safe and reliable fully autonomous vehicle.
In related news the California DMV permitted self-driving truck start-up, TuSimple, to test its artificial intelligence (AI)-based Level 4 autonomous driving system on 420-miles of public roads from San Diego to Tucson in Arizona.
Week 19 2017 - Think Tank predicts 95% of miles will be shared and autonomous by 2030.
CNBC ran an article on the prediction by the US thinktank RethinkX that 95% of miles traveled will be in electric powered autonomous cars by 2030. The controversial prediction is way above that of Boston Consulting which predicted that only 25% of such trips would be in self-driving or shared vehicles. Looking at the website of Tony Seba, a co-author of the RethinkX study, “Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030: The Disruption of Transportation and the Collapse of the ICE Vehicle and Oil Industries.” the report also predicts that only 20% of Americans will own cars by 2030.
The predicted shift in mobility leads into other news this week where Ford’s CEO was challenged on his strategy for the company, resulting in its performance lagging its competitors. Mark Fields, CEO since 2014, embarked on what is the auto sector icon’s biggest strategy shift in history by investing heavily in self-driving technology. The challenge for the Ford CEO’s strategy is that he has one foot in the future and one in the present, resulting in an earnings decline of 42%.
Week 15 2017 - Apple to test self-driving car
Apple joined the growing number of companies authorized to test autonomous vehicles on California’s public roads. Tech companies have recently encroached on automakers territory, with 11 of the 21 companies on the list of permit holders authorized by the California DMV now being from the sector. Uber, a tech company, lost its permit in February 2017.
According to the permit Apple, based in Paulo Alto, is allowed to test three 2015 Lexus RX450h vehicles on public roads. According to the rules of the autonomous testing program, each vehicle should have two drivers, usually engineers, at all times in the vehicle.
It is not yet clear what Apple’s self-driving strategy is, news over the last two years have been conflicting, ranging from the company either following the Google route of not building car’s but only systems to the Tesla route, building an Apple iCar. The world’s most valuable tech company tagged its self-driving efforts as Project Titan.
Week 14 2017 - Navigant research discounts Waymo and Tesla autonomous efforts
Navigant Research placed Ford and GM at the top of its autonomous driving leaderboard, surprisingly far above Waymo (7th), the pioneer of autonomous driving. Waymo was only listed as a contender, and Tesla who has already clocked over 300 million miles in Autopilot (Level 2 Autonomy) did not make the Top 10 list. Waymo, not aiming to develop a car, but rather focusing on autonomous technology has partnered with Chrysler and Ford on testing autonomous technology. Making Navigant’s findings even more surprising to us is that Waymo performed exceptionally well compared to other automakers on the list when comparing across all permit holders allowed to test autonomous tech on Californias public roads. According to CA DMV regulations, each permit holder must annually file a disengagement report, reflecting the number of events where a driver essentially has to take over from the vehicle’s autonomous mode to either prevent a traffic incident or where the system fails. Waymo posted a record 0.2 disengagements per 1,000 miles in its 2016. For a breakdown of each permit holders testing in California read our recent blog providing detailed analysis.
Navigant’s criteria are based on the following ten factors; vision, go-to-market strategy, partners, production strategy, technology, sales, marketing, and distribution, product capability, product quality and reliability, product portfolio and staying power. The Top Ten on Navigant’s list are Ford, GM, Renault–Nissan Alliance, Daimler, Volkswagen Group, BMW, Waymo, Volvo/Autoliv/Zenuity, Delphi and Hyundai Motor Group.
Despite Tesla aiming to have a market ready Level 5 autonomous product by the end of the year, it is only listed as a contender. Tesla is criticized by some, for being too aggressive, using its customers as guinea pigs for its AutoPilot software. Not surprising though is that Uber features on the bottom end of the list, the controversial ride-hailing company has been in the news lately for losing its right to test in San Francisco, being sued by Waymo and a crash in Tempe, Arizona, temporarily halting its pilot program.
Week 7 2017 - Tesla Level 4 Automation by years end
This week Tesla CEO Elon Musk commented on the disruption of self-driving cars to the sector during the World Government Summit in Dubai. Mr. Musk was in Dubai for the launch of Tesla in the Emirates. His comments indicated that Tesla would have its first Level 4 Autonomous system available by the end of 2017. The disruption is significant to the auto sector since once a self-driving car is available, it will devalue new cars without the technology. According to Mr. Musk, the disruption will be slow initially but that in ten years from now all new cars will have the capability to be autonomous. It’s significant that Mr. Musk made the comments at a Government Summit as regulations, not technology seems to be the biggest hurdle at the moment. Will technology force the pace of Governments? We sincerely hope so.
Week 5 2017 - Waymo's Disengagement report shows accelerated learning
The California Department of Motor Vehicles released it’s 2016 Autonomous Vehicle Disengagement report this week. We reported earlier that a total of 20 companies were authorized to test the autonomous technology on the State’s public roads by the end of 2016. The Disengagement report reflects the number of events where a driver essentially has to take over from the vehicle’s autonomous mode to either prevent a traffic incident or where it fails. Alphabet’s autonomous vehicle program moved from Google to a stand-alone company Waymo, revealed its 2016 scoring in a blog post by it’s Head of self-driving technology. Waymo showed a marked improvement from its 2015 safety-related disengages of 0.8 (341) disengages per 1000 miles to 0.2 (124) in 2016.
For a complete analysis of 2016 disengagement reports follow the link
Week 52 2016 - Ford debuts second generation of its self driving test vehicle
Ford debuted its next-generation Fusion Hybrid Autonomous development vehicle this week. The second generation of the vehicle sports more production ready controls and LiDar sensors on top of an improved computer hardware platform. Improved field of vision on the sensors allowed Ford to have only two sensors as opposed to four in the first generation. The second generation follows the first, introduced three years ago. The company aims to have an SAE Level 4-capable vehicle commercially available by 2021 for ride-hailing and sharing purposes. Ford will also expand its test fleet, currently operational only in California to its home state, Michigan.
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