With self-driving cars faltering, do ‘driver assistance’ systems come in handy?

This article is part of our series on The future of transportationwhich is an exploration of innovations and challenges that affect how we move around the world.

Imagine you’re heading east on I-95, for example, when you and your truck are facing red brake lights for miles ahead. Now imagine not touching the brakes or the steering wheel and, instead, sitting back and letting the car handle it.

In the next hour of stop-and-go, the truck’s system drives: anticipates deceleration, acceleration, braking and steering on its own. When traffic drops off, the pickup ramps up to a set speed of 70 mph and automatic lane changes are made. The system checks for blind spots and turn signal flashes.

But this truck is not designed to be completely driverless. The truck’s infrared driver monitoring camera monitors the eye and head position. You can glance at a passenger or go back to the navigation screen – but if you look away for more than a few seconds, LEDs flash blue on the steering wheel rim, which is transparent to put your eyes back on the road. If you ignore the prompts, the edge flashes red, and the system disconnects and returns to practical control.

As faces Tesla Federal investigation And the Lawsuits On fatal accidents involving the autopilot system, which shake public confidence in robotic cars, could a reductive approach like the one described — dubbed “partial autonomy” or “driver assistance” systems — be the most realistic future of hands-free driving?

This kind of system, more like a no-nonsense utilities than you might find in a fully automated car, is a necessary component to getting top marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in upcoming assessments of Partial Autonomous Technology; High ratings are appreciated by an independent non-profit organization. And while GM is taking the lead with its Super Cruise system, it’s not alone; Ford, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are making similar attempts.

Super Cruise combines precisely detailed 3D laser-scanned route maps, cameras, radar and onboard GPS. By the end of this year, the company intends to expand the system’s network to two-way highways for the first time and double its total operating range to 400,000 miles. Doing so would allow hands-free driving on some of North America’s most popular bypass roads, such as the Pacific Coast Highway, Route 66 and the Trans-Canada Highway.

None of this means that car companies are giving up on the dream of self-driving cars entirely. In addition to Tesla, GM’s cruise division, Alphabet’s Waymo and Argo AI continue to develop and test robotic bots, with human safety operators on board, in cities including Miami and Austin, Texas. Cruz started collecting a fare Ride a robotaxi In San Francisco modified Chevy Bolt EVs which are Dubai mapping Hoping to start a robotaxi program there next year.

But with fully driverless technology faltering, so has confidence in such technology. “Systems are working great,” he said, “right so they don’t work” Bryant Walker Smith, associate professor in the University of South Carolina’s Schools of Law and Engineering, who has advised the federal government on self-driving vehicles. “We don’t have a full sense of the winning group to cover the most people who drive.”

In addition, Cruz pause It recalled its fleet of 80 vehicles for software repairs after two car collisions in June. GM’s public file indicated that law enforcement cited human-driven vehicles as often wrong-doing, including speeding, and that the company’s automated axle, prior to impact, safely performed approximately 125,000 left-hand turns through gaps in oncoming traffic. .

David Harkey, president of IIHS, said industry fact-checking on technical challenges, and attendant public disappointment, is masking real progress. First, the building blocks of partial autonomous cars are already in every showroom. Automated emergency braking is standard on every new car as of September, thanks to a voluntary agreement struck in 2016 between the automakers, IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

According to their research, such radar or camera braking has reduced police-reported rear-end collisions by 50 per cent, said IIHS’s Mr Harkey, adding that automated pedestrian braking has reduced the number of collisions between cars and humans. 30% off cars that don’t have this feature. And anti-lock brakes. cameras, ultrasonic sensors, radar for blind spot control and lane departure monitoring devices; Adaptive cruise control is also made standard.

“We have seen this as a useful technology, and the same will be true for some of the new technologies. We will continue to push for more features in more models to save more lives and prevent accidents,” said Mr. Harke.

The trick, he said, is to build on that promise, with systems that tangibly enhance safety but keep human drivers in the loop.

“These are driver assistance systems, not driver replacement systems. Some consumers don’t know the difference,” he said.

For its part, the IIHS is testing what it calls “partial autonomous” (a different term for “driver-assisted”) cars. This fall, the nonprofit plans to release its first “protection ratings” to help guide consumers and incentivize the industry to incorporate more effective features.

A higher “good” rating requires a driver monitoring system that checks the driver’s gaze and hand position. A driver with coffee in one hand and iPhone in the other won’t be willing to take back the wheel. Other criteria include escalating visual, audible or tactile alerts to get the driver’s attention, and a fail-safe procedure to safely slow or stop the vehicle if the system is misused or to assist an incapacitated driver. (Super Cruise and some similar systems incorporate many of these features.) IIHS prefers that the systems start drivers making any automatic lane changes to keep them engaged in the process.

One early study, though, points to potential barriers to driver-assisted technology to achieve this “good” rating. at recent days The shortage of chips It made it difficult for IIHS to collect and test relatively modern cars and forced GM to pause the Super Cruise installation. However, in 2020 Collaborative Survey with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. , IIHS found that Super Cruise and similar systems prompted people to drive faster, look away more often and use more hand-held devices, signs of potential driver inattention..

In Germany, Mercedes is starting to push the boundaries with its new Drive Pilot engine, which legally allows the driver to perform tasks other than driving – checking email, even watching a movie – but monitors the driver and alerts when to get the wheel back. IIHS divides these types of systems into levels of automation, from zero (without automation) to five (complete automation). Experts consider level 3 (some automation, but with a ready driver) to be the most difficult of the levels, the Forgotten Zone compared to level 5 cars that are already automated. Right now, the Drive Pilot can only run on some highways at speeds up to 37 mph. Mercedes is seeking certification to introduce the system in the United States next year.

Taking a different approach to marketing, General Motors and other companies have begun to downplay the safety gains and cite reduced driver workloads, particularly in grueling commutes and traffic.

“Owners feel more refreshed, feel more relaxed, but still remain attentive,” said Mario Maiorana, chief engineer at Super Cruise.

GM engineers say the safe and responsible deployment guided every decision, including delaying the launch of the Super Cruise in 2017, even as the company faced mounting criticism for not keeping pace with Tesla’s autopilot.

The next test is GM’s Ultra Cruise, which the company plans to debut on the Cadillac Celeste, its flagship six-figure electric sedan, late next year. The system is designed to ultimately provide hands-free driving on 3.2 million miles of road — nearly every inch of paved roads in the United States and Canada.

Ultra Cruise chief engineer Jason Dittman said the systems must operate with complete transparency and consistency to instill trust between owners and the public.

“If you think it’s hard to get someone to leave the wheel on the highway,” Mr. Dittmann said, imagine a snowy country lane or a busy city street.

GM says the Ultra Cruise will stop and start at traffic lights and stop signs, independently follow navigation routes, avoid objects near vehicles and pedestrians, and even self-park in driveways. The machine learning system will identify deceptive scenarios and load data to continually improve performance, and GM can remotely stop the system from being used on any performance path the company doesn’t trust. GM claims the system will eventually handle about 95 percent of driving, regardless of complex scenarios such as multi-lane roundabouts.

Despite the high-profile accidents, Professor Smith believes that an overemphasis on the flaws in driver assistance systems distorts the real crisis: Nearly 43,000 Americans died last year in car crashes, which claim nearly 1.3 million lives worldwide annually.

At least 100 people will die on US roads today, and we won’t hear about them.” “Chances are that no one will be killed by the driver assistance system.”

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