Path for self-driving automation is complicated at any level

Self-driving technology is in a slump.

Argo AI, one of the leading companies developing robo-taxis, shut down in October. Some companies have taken a hit in the public markets, bringing the specter of delisting from stock exchanges. In 2022, two major crashes have raised new concerns about overall safety.

Some companies see a way through this valley of disillusionment — companies with the right “combination of capabilities, capital and technology” are “going to succeed,” says CEO and co-founder of Aurora Innovation said Chris Urmson at the Automotive News Congress in Detroit last week. .

But other companies are looking for exit ramps. Automakers such as Ford Motor Co. are looking to recoup some of their larger investments in self-driving cars by leveraging the technology underlying conditional self-driving.

Rather than trying to jump into Level 4, where humans are not involved in the driving process, Ford is one automaker focused on commercializing what automotive engineers call Level 3 automation. CEO Jim Farley said at his Automotive News Congress that there is a lot of value to unlock.

“People are willing to pay a lot of money for it and they are willing to let their stress out by taking their hands off the wheel,” he said. “And back in the day? Incredible. We’ll never see pricing power like when Level 3 was democratized.”

Level 3 automation systems can provide human drivers with magical moments that are elusive in self-driving technology. Take your hands off the wheel, take your attention off the road, read a book or watch YouTube.

Crossing the threshold from Level 2 to Level 3 constitutes a giant leap. Level 3 systems, like many of today’s driver assistance systems already in production, do more than actively control driving. Taking it a step further, once highway driving is possible, the system itself will be responsible for steering the vehicle, though a human may need to regain control in the event of complications.

But be aware that before Level 3 full hype arrives in marketing these new systems, they bring a new round of complexity and unanswered questions of their own.

Among them, what if a situation arises and the human driver does not respond to prompts to regain control? Redundant equipment is needed to ensure that the car can move safely to a stop. Can those cars pull off the road or stop in the driving lane? do you

Predicting a series of cascading questions is easy.

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