Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Like we said before one more time, levels of automation, schedules of implementation

Apologies to regular readers who've been through this before, but probably the two most important concepts when discussing the potential impact of automated vehicles and certainly the most underused are SAE Autonomy Levels and the rate at which each of these levels will likely be adopted. If you follow the coverage closely you will routinely find, even in the most serious and respectable publications, arguments that mix levels of autonomy in the most careless way and, worse yet, promote as just-around-the-corner applications that require virtually every car on the road to be reliably using compatible level V technology.

Just to be clear, autonomy is coming and it is coming quickly, but when you hear promises of curing congestion by packing cars inches apart at high speeds or redesigned roads with narrower lanes and other human-driver-hostile features, consider the following article from Jalopnik.
For one thing, retail sales of fully-automated vehicles aren’t expected to begin until 2025 at the earliest, wrote Mitch Bainwol, in testimony to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Bainwol is the president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group that represents Ford, General Motors, FCA, BMW and more—automakers that produce 80 percent of cars on U.S. roads today. To put it plainly, he speaks for a significant chunk of the industry.
And in his written testimony ahead of the committee’s hearing on Wednesday, Bainwol offered a sober assessment of the situation.
Level 4 geo-fenced self-driving vehicles that can only be operated by an Automated Driving System will probably begin around 2021. But, retail sales to consumers of so-called Level 5 vehicles that can operate anywhere a person can drive a conventional vehicle today is unlikely to happen until around 2025 or after. Given how much vehicles cost and how long they last – more than 20 percent of cars on the road today were produced before 2002 – vehicles equipped with Level 5 systems will likely not be a majority of the fleet for three more decades. Ubiquity is not projected to occur for at least four decades largely due to the fact that over 260 million light duty vehicles are registered in the U.S.

Anyone who seriously researched this field, discussed the issues with researchers and made a sincere effort to find out what's going on, had a pretty good idea that this was the case. The credulous, sensationalistic, future-is-now reporting you've seen on the subject is not just misinformed it is irresponsible.

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