TRAVERSE CITY, MI. — Advanced driver assistance systems are generally seen as building blocks for fully self-driving cars. However, industry leaders increasingly believe advanced driver assistance system and autonomous capabilities separate systems that evolve at different rates to serve different markets.
“They use a lot of the same sensors, but the difference is that on a Level 2 car, the most capable sensor in the car is a human,” said Nick Sitarsky, Toyota’s vice president of integrated automotive systems, during a panel discussion Tuesday at the Automotive Research Center Leadership Training Seminars here.
By comparison, Level 4 systems require a lot more technology because they allow the car to drive itself in most conditions.
“You have to recreate what a person does … and that’s a very difficult and expensive thing to do,” Sitarsky said.
That’s why the first autonomous vehicles deployed on the streets will be owned by commercial fleets and not available to consumers, he said.
“You need to maximize the use of the vehicle so you can amortize that cost and pay for it,” Sitarsky said.
Technology companies, suppliers and automakers, including Toyota, continue to invest significant resources in the development of all levels of driver assistance systems and autonomous technologies.
SAE International defines Level 2 systems as those providing steering and braking/acceleration support to the driver rather than fully piloting the vehicle. They are designed to improve safety and convenience at prices that consumers can afford, Sitarski said. The driver must still follow traffic and maintain control of the vehicle.
Moving from Level 2 to Level 4 comes down to the system’s ability to replicate the perception of human drivers and the constant adjustments they make, said Indu Vijayan, director of automotive product management at the lidar maker. Avoca.
“If you’re driving down the highway and suddenly you hear an ambulance driving by, our system has to understand that signal to pull over,” Vijayan said.
While some executives see a huge gap between Level 2 and Level 4, others believe that consumers will experience a steady progression from Level 2 to fully self-driving over time.
Ehsan Maradi Pari, lead researcher at Honda Research Institute USA Inc., said Honda sees the advanced driver assistance system as a “bridge to automated driving.”
“If we look at it from a consumer perspective, it has to be a gradual adaptation with these technologies. The driver and the customer can adapt to it,” he said.
As automakers introduce new technologies, the industry needs to clearly communicate the capabilities of the systems to customers, Sitarsky said.
“There are no autonomous vehicles in the mass market right now,” he said.
Some companies are running pilot programs, mostly in small geographic areas, with self-driving vehicles, but they are not available for purchase.
“There are a lot of cars with assistance systems, and I think it’s really important that we’re transparent and honest about what these systems are and what they can and can’t do,” Sitarski said.
The panelists focused their discussion on Tier 2 and Tier 4 vehicles because they no longer think Tier 3 systems will come to market. SAE defines Level 3 vehicles as those that can drive themselves but require a driver under certain conditions. Panelists said that in emergency situations, it is difficult to hand over control to drivers and expect them to make the right decisions.
“Handing over control to the driver is very difficult,” said Greg Brennan, AAA’s director of automotive and industry relations.
Even going from a phone call to a full traffic interaction can be challenging, Brennan said. Research conducted by the AAA Road Safety Fund found it could take up to 25 seconds to get the car back under control, he said.