NOVI, Mich. — Uber began testing self-driving cars in Philadelphia last week. Ford also gave media test drives in their new autonomous Fusions. Google is working on a self-driving vehicle as well. We know where the future is headed.
However, there are a few challenges that still need to be worked on, according to panelists at the 2016 SAE Convergence. A group of chief technologists spoke on Monday in a panel discussion titled Automotive Innovators. They discussed whether or not fully autonomous vehicles would be road ready by 2021.
Dr. Ken Washington is vice president of Research and Advanced Engineering at the Ford Motor Company. Appointed in August 2014, Washington leads Ford’s worldwide research organization, overseeing the development and implementation of the company’s technology strategy and plans.
“Getting there isn’t going to be easy,” Washington explained. “I’m very optimistic that the target of 2021. There are some really hard technical challenges in a fully autonomous vehicles. When sensors can operate at their full capability, the ability to do high resolution mapping and keep it fresh. We’re looking for partners to do mapping. were looking to partner in space of new mobility services. We’ll acquire and buy it and partner when we know we’re not strong at it. We’re really looking at Tier One suppliers like Delphi to bring in the sensors and integrate them. We’re not a sensor company, but we will integrate them.”
The Ford vice president said self-driving vehicles need to be able to make hard decisions. Is that a van going by or is that a sign? What is the sun doing? Those scenarios still need to be worked out. We’re simply not there yet. He pointed out an example when a Tesla Model S driver was killed in Florida with the “Autopilot” feature engaged on May 7.
“About four years ago, we changed our viewpoint. We realized that the technology took the driver out of the loop and handle the scenarios that you are going to experience at level 4. It needs to be approached top down as supposed to bottom up. We’re working to continue to advance to improve driver assist technologies to make your drive safer and more enjoyable to assist you from drifting in your lane to pedestrians. We’re tripling our investment in driver assist technologies. We’re skipping level 3 at the moment, why would this driver invest in this capability if they have to be at the ready?”
Jon Lauckner was named General Motors Vice President and Chief Technology Officer (CTO), effective April 1, 2012. In addition to his role as CTO, Jon is President, GM Ventures and also responsible for leading GM’s Global Research and Development organization. As president, Jon leads a team that makes equity investments in startup companies that are developing next-generation automotive technology.
“Gesture recognition has to be developed,” Lauckner said. “Lots of technologies can help us sooner rather than later. Quite a bit faster than some of the pessimists think. Today, we have forward mitigation braking, blind spot alert, rear traffic warning. Rather than wait, we can put them on vehicles today and reduce collisions that would otherwise occur and reduce injuries that would otherwise occur. You’re going to have to put some of these technologies on the car if you want a 5-star car while we work on autonomous vehicles which are level 4 or 5.”
The General Motors vice president highlighted some of the Detroit automaker’s advances. He said GM has 36 models with Apple CarPlay. In addition, Lauckner mentioned the all-new Chevrolet Bolt EV, which will achieve 238 miles on a full charge. The Bolt EV will arrive in dealers at the end of the year with a price tag of $37,495 before a $7,500 federal tax credit. “It will be the first electric vehicle that will crack the code of affordability and long range.” He also spoke briefly about GM’s new car sharing service called Maven that will be rolling out in several cities later this year.
“Early this year, GM created a new autonomous vehicle team to realize the promise of autonomous vehicles. In 2017, we’ll take an important step when we introduce Super Cruise technology in the Cadillac CT6. It is a driving system that automates highway driving. Super Cruise is a level 2 driver assist technology. We are now road testing autonomous the Bolt EV in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona. As we confront a sea change, what does this mean? The latest technological wave produces significant technological opportunities. I’m genuinely excited about the future of personal mobility.”
Phil Eyler was appointed to the role Executive Vice President and President, Connected Car at HARMAN International in July 2015. Phil oversees the $3 billion division, which develops integrated systems encompassing embedded infotainment, telematics, connected safety and cyber security solutions, among others. He oversees an organization of 7,500 employees, including top technology experts and engineers throughout the world.
“There is going to be a level 3 transition,” Eyler explained. “It is a challenge that has to be addressed from the user experience standpoint. How to do it safely at the right time? We are working with the right partners to make it more effective. Every OEM has a different approach. Freedom is the most fundamental word. Not only a safe car, but a more efficient driving pattern. We think its going to free up a driver and passenger to really gain time in a car. Productivity in a car rather than straining over traffic. You can actually take time and do conferences and really make productive time that you’re in the car. Reimagining that.”
Jeffrey J. Owens is chief technology officer and executive vice president of Delphi Automotive, a $16 billion global automotive systems supplier. Owens is responsible for the enterprise information technology function and Delphi’s global engineering organization, which includes more than 19,000 technologists located in 15 major technical centers. Owens leads the company’s innovation strategies while driving advanced technologies supporting the global megatrends of safe, green and connected.
“We’re developing a technology from people monitoring to give alerts to the vehicle or the driver,” Owens explained. “I do believe that 30 years might be closer to complete autonomous cars. We’re really looking at the transition as an opportunity to create solutions. I think the mobility on demand pull ahead is going to make level 3 a move point. It is a tough problem to solve. We’ve been thinking about a safety journey of 10 to 15 years to get to level 4. If the idea is to get rid of the cost of the driver, it’s a move point. You don’t have a driver to re-engage. I think it will start to wane.”
The panel discussion was moderated by John McElroy of Autoline Detroit.
For more information about the 2016 SAE Convergence, visit http://www.sae.org/events/convergence/