Technological advancements in the field of autonomous vehicles are progressing rapidly, but the realization of a level 5 autonomous car, capable of operating without a driver’s intervention in all traffic conditions, still appears distant.
While many players in the automotive industry have expressed their ambition to create these vehicles, some believe that the challenges to overcome are not merely technological.
Luca de Meo, the CEO of Renault, recently expressed considerable skepticism regarding achieving a level 5 autonomous car. He stated, “The level 5 autonomous vehicle, I think it’s a utopia. […] We are working on autonomous vehicles, but I really don’t want to be the first manufacturer to put one on the market.” These recent comments highlight the significant challenges the industry faces in achieving full autonomy.
Undeniable technological progress
However, it’s undeniable that technological progress in this field is substantial. At the 2022 Paris Motor Show, Valeo showcased its third generation Lidar sensors, a crucial technology for autonomous vehicles’ environmental perception. Stellantis, a major industry player, has already been announced as a customer for this technology.
Different levels of autonomy
Currently, French legislation allows level 3 autonomous cars, which can operate up to 60 km/h on separated roadways. However, to reach speeds of 130 km/h on highways, even more powerful sensors are required.
Valeo’s third-generation Lidar sensors promise to expand object recognition with great precision.
Essential sensors for safety
The key to the success of autonomous cars lies in their sensors. Cameras, Lidars, and radars serve as these vehicles’ essential senses, enabling them to perceive the environment in all weather conditions.
Microphones are also used to detect surrounding noises and ensure passenger safety.
A gradual future for autonomous cars
While high-speed autonomous driving on highways might seem within reach, exiting the highway, dealing with tolls, and navigating urban areas remain significant challenges.
Geoffrey Bouquot, Director of Research and Development, states, “It’s a sum of use cases. It’s never all the time, everywhere. But it’s almost all the time and almost everywhere. The boundary expands as safety is assured. One day we’ll look back and say, in fact, it was autonomous.”
Automated parking soon a reality
Autonomous cars aren’t just about driving but also parking. It will soon be possible to exit the vehicle and let it park automatically.
After a learning period, the car will be able to recognize its environment and offer to park itself. This functionality should be available within the next five years.
Innovative driver assistance systems
Apart from autonomous driving, innovative driver assistance systems are already available. These include functions such as adaptive lighting, pedestrian detection, monitoring driver distraction levels, and alerts for drowsiness.
Challenges of responsibility and overconfidence
Safety remains the primary concern, especially for insurers. In the event of an accident, the question of responsibility arises, and rules must be defined to avoid perpetual shifting of responsibilities.
Furthermore, overconfidence in delegated driving systems poses a challenge, as these systems are not standardized from one vehicle to another and can disrupt drivers.
Ethics of automated decisions
Finally, autonomous cars raise profound ethical questions, particularly regarding decisions made by automated systems in the event of an accident. Free will and responsibility remain critical issues as technology advances.
In summary, autonomous cars are on the move, but they remain a distant horizon. Technological advancements are undeniable, but challenges persist, both technically and ethically and legally. It will take time for autonomous driving to become a daily reality for drivers worldwide.