Driving is becoming more and more automated – is the future connected and autonomous?

Driving is becoming more and more automated – is the future connected and autonomous?

07 Nov

By Gwyn Fennell

The Hollywood representation of futuristic cars has almost entirely failed to live up to reality. Some representations have been far fetched – like the time travelling DeLorean in Back to the Future – and so weren’t really expected to become reality, but others, with more chance of actually happening, have failed to live up to expectation. Think flying cars in Bladerunner or Fifth Element, and underwater cars – like the Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Okay, there are some examples of these general automotive concepts available to the extremely wealthy, but in reality none are able to demonstrate the simplicity of use and accessibility of those envisaged by Hollywood. There is, though, one futuristic representation of automotive tech that is on track to fulfil the promise of Hollywood, examples of which are in the movies I, Robot, and Minority Report. The technology in question is automated driving, and the autonomous, connected transport of tomorrow.

While it’s true that the future represented in these two movies is still some distance off – including their portrayal of fully autonomous vehicles and infrastructure – it should be noted that many of the technologies required to achieve this future are not only possible today, they’re already commonplace in many modern cars.

It’s tomorrow’s world today!

Believe it or not, some of the automated technologies on the silver screen are already commonplace in many modern cars. If you drive a modern day BMW, or Mercedes-Benz, you’re already benefiting from Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technologies, like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) – developed by Continental to keep motorists safer, and fitted throughout both car makers’ fleets.

Continental make more than just tyres

If you thought that Continental only make tyres, think again. True, they’re best known by the general public for their many award winning premium tyres, but in the global automotive sector they’re renowned for a lot more. The tyre division only accounts for a small part of their driver safety technologies, while their Chassis and Safety division is highly regarded for the many electronic automotive safety technology innovations that are fitted throughout the car manufacturing industry. Continental develop and produce integrated active and passive driving safety technologies, as well as products that support vehicle dynamics – all designed to keep drivers safer.

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), is a leading safety technology designed to monitor traffic conditions in front of the car. If a driver doesn’t respond to any emergency situations that it detects, like possible collision, the system automatically applies the brakes. This is particularly useful, when you consider that many road accidents occur because of late braking / braking with insufficient force. Continental’s AEB system is responsible for helping many motorists avoid this kind of life threatening situation.

Older drivers will remember the introduction of Electronic Stability Control (ESC), which has been around since the mid 1990s. Today, it’s developed far beyond just anti-lock brakes and traction control. Modern ESC sensors assist drivers with steering, such as in the event of a possible collision, or if a directional correction is deemed necessary. Continental’s Road Departure Detection system monitors a vehicle’s steering angle and path, and is programmed to intervene if it senses the vehicle is departing the road.

Automated driving is about comfort too

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) not only improves safety, it provides drivers with superior comfort and convenience, as well. Those lucky participants that were fortunate enough to attend Continental’s popular Vision Zero Live events can testify to this. As well as positive experiences with the safety driven AEB system – hands free – and ESC system ‘Elk Test’, Vision Zero Live attendees were in awe of the (autonomous) automated self-parking technology.

This is achieved through a sophisticated array of on-board sensors and cameras, all strategically positioned throughout the exterior of the car. The positional data they gather is continuously updated, leading to the creation of a 360° virtual map around the vehicle. The system’s four cameras and twelve infrared LIDAR sensors use this data to map and plot a path for autonomously parking the vehicle. In the event that a new variable should enter the established parking path – such as a vehicle, or person – the system immediately stops the process, until such time that the immediate surroundings become clear.


The transition from automated assistance to fully autonomous

The aforementioned examples of automated driving assistance represent some of the current Continental technologies motorists can experience, but looking to the future – a la I, Robot and Minority Report – the aim is to achieve a fully autonomous driving experience. However, as with all societal change, there’s a lot of confusion and uncertainty about automated / autonomous driving. It’s worth taking a moment to clarify the established definitions that represent the six levels of driving automation.

The six levels of automated driving

In 2014, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) published their report which identified and defined six levels of driving automation, ranging from zero automation (Level 0) to complete, full-on automation (Level 5).
The definitions, below, are reproduced from a March 2015 report that was commissioned by the  Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The UK Economic Opportunity, and subsequently included in the 2017 House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee report, Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The future?.

Level 0: Driver only
The (human) driver is continuously in control of the speed and direction of the vehicle. There is no intervening vehicle system active.

Level 1: Assisted
The driver continuously performs one or other of the longitudinal or lateral dynamic driving task. The other driving task is performed by the assisting system.

Level 2: Partial automation
The driver must monitor the dynamic driving task and the driving environment at all times. The system performs longitudinal and lateral driving task in a defined use case.

Level 3: Conditional automation
The driver does not need to monitor the dynamic driving task, nor the driving environment at all times – but must always be in a position to resume control. The system performs longitudinal and lateral driving task in a defined use case. The system recognises its performance limits, and if necessary will request the driver to resume the dynamic driving task – within a sufficient time margin.

Level 4: High automation
Driver is not required during defined use case. System performs the lateral and longitudinal dynamic driving task in all situations in a defined use case.

Level 5: Full autonomation
The autonomous system performs the lateral and longitudinal dynamic driving task in all situations encountered during the entire journey. No driver is required.
Note: Levels of autonomy cover road vehicles only.

The future is connected

Getting from Level 0 ‘no automation’ to level 5 ‘fully autonomous’ will not only be determined by government legislation and public opinion, but also the development of current and future technologies – for both vehicles and infrastructure.

Presently, the public have primarily focused on autonomous vehicles, but just as important is the infrastructure that fully autonomous transport will depend on. Continental are at the heart of both, connecting the two to help ensure a safe, secure autonomous driving experience. Their activities include the development of a wide range of technologies and solutions that seamlessly integrate the driver, the vehicle and the infrastructure, in their quest to “Making Mobility a Great Place to Live.”

From ADAC to BEE (“Balanced Economy and Ecology mobility concept”) to Cellular V2X (5G next generation communications between vehicles and the infrastructure) – and beyond – Continental’s experience and expertise is driving the change and innovation needed to integrate and connect everything together. It’s no surprise they’re driving the future. Only Continental knows the entire braking process in every detail – from pedal to tyre – vital for the inevitable transition to a fully autonomous driving experience.

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