DETROIT — Autonomous vehicles made up most of the discussion at the 2017 SAE World Congress Experience (WCX17) inside Detroit’s Cobo Center. Industry experts and thought leaders gave attendees an update on the progress of these futuristic cars.
Ford Motor Co. is testing self-driving vehicles in Michigan, Arizona and in California. A special edition Ford Fusion was shown on the WCX17 exhibit floor with dozens of LiDAR sensors, cameras and radars. The automaker announced that it will begin an autonomous ride sharing service in the year 2021.
“We’ve put real vehicles on the road and we test them and monitor how they do and we learn from that,” said Ken Washington, vice president of Research and Advanced Engineering at Ford Motor Company. “We take the data from the learning and we make the vehicle even smarter. We announced earlier this year our investment with a startup company called Argo AI [founded by the former leaders of Google and Uber]. They’re going to strengthen our plan, bringing their expertise so that testing can accelerate even more.”
Five years later, Ford hopes to have self-driving vehicles available for purchase or lease in its U.S. dealerships. That’s sometime between 2026 and 2031. Steering wheels and gas pedals may become a thing of the past, according to early reports.
“When you think about it, if you have a ride service where you’re not required to drive, you don’t need steering wheels,” Washington explained. “That’s our baseline point of view. A level 4 vehicle with commercial operations does not need to have controls.”
Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard is working on connected vehicles that can talk to one another. For example, if there is an accident ahead: one car can alert another car to steer clear, thereby lessening the backup.
“There’s a sense of urgency to get this done quickly, but also a note of caution that security has to be addressed,” said Nigel Upton, general manager of the UIoT/GCP program at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. “With information coming off the car, there’s privacy considerations and security considerations. The car is essentially a rolling bed of sensors. We build value out of the data coming from the vehicle. It has to be done quickly–otherwise the automakers could allow over the top vendors will do that for them.”
The Transportation Research Center has been testing autonomous vehicles for over 20 years at its facility in East Liberty, Ohio. It’s larger than the Mcity testing facility in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“The testing is rapidly increasing with much success,” said Jeffery Sankey, global business development director at TRC Inc. “We’re expanding our existing facilities with the addition of a new 540-acre test center for testing automated technologies with an additional flexible platform of a vehicle dynamics area, a six-lane intersection that’s configurable in various scenarios: an urban grid, a roadway through a woods for signal inclusion and for future second phase, an indoor winter conditions facility.”
Pete Tseronis from Dots and Bridges LLC delivered a speech titled “Self-Driving Cars: The Result of Secure Transformative Innovation.” He spoke on Tuesday on the WCX Tech Hub stage located within the exhibit hall.
“Firewalls, routers and switches are being built into our cars to protect that asset while it’s on the road,” Tseronis said. “You have to worry about the physical protection as well as the assets, the hardware, that’s going to be in that car as well. It’s not like I’m going to get hurt on a computer. But you’ve got to think about that with these next-gen cars. You have to trust that when those things roll off the assembly line that a lot of this has been thought through. Make no mistake, it’s mitigation of risk.”
Automotive supplier DENSO showed off its Persuasive Electric Vehicle (PEV) concept. It features wireless charging, an inflatable air bumper and a breathable seat to cool the driver.
For more information about the 2017 SAE World Congress Experience (WCX17), visit www.wcx17.org.