A big selling point is that the system can make the segue into Level 3 and Level 4 autonomy by adding additional sensors operating independently that initially work in the background as validation for the eventual day when it’s tasked with hands-off, brain-off driving.
This is where coming from the ADAS side can accelerate autonomy faster than pouring money into robotaxis, so one theory goes. “They are essentially also refining and validating the base layer software for their autonomous solution for OEMs over the coming five years while being profitable,” Chris McNally, head of global automotive research for Evercore, wrote.
There are still hurdles for L2+. The final regulations are still to be thrashed out and Avery at Thatcham expects the use of L2+ will be geofenced – it’ll only work on certain roads. This is already the case with SuperCruise and BlueCruise, which work on highways mapped in high definition. Lacking any regulatory oversight, Tesla’s L2+ ‘Full self driving’ (FSD) system works anywhere in the U.S., but the internet is filled with videos showing the dangers of that approach.
Mapping roads in HD is “significantly more expensive” than standard definition according to Remco Timmer, head of production management at Here Technologies, the Dutch company with a dominant market share when it comes to location services and on-board mapping. “It needs to be accurate in centimetres rather than metres, it’s typically filled with 3D content, also all kinds of localization objects, like signs or other elements that help the car figure out its positioning,” Timmer said.
Mapping to a level that enables autonomous driving could get faster and cheaper as companies like Mobileye and Here use the fleets of ordinary cars already embedded with their technology to record their surroundings and feed back, allowing L2+ cars to truly provide “address-to-address” handsfree navigation. Mobileye, for example, reckons it can map its native Israel in 24 hours this way.
Some of the technology, for example driver monitoring, will be in the car anyway thanks to NCAP and the European Union’s General Safety Regulation raft of requirements being phased in now (and which the UK is likely to accept). Checking to see if you really are looking at the road will be an infra-red camera tracking your gaze, a technology that will become more clever. Sweden’s Veoneer for example is investigating cognitive monitoring that doesn’t just follow your gaze but registers whether you’ve spotted potential obstacles. That could be irritating if it’s wrong but also freeing if it works correctly, Thatcham’s Avery suggests. “It could enable manufacturers to dial out annoying warning systems,” he said. “It knows you’re not about to drive into that parked car, because it registers you’ve seen it.” It would also spot that someone was driving drunk or drugged-up.