Harman’s Till: Level 5 AVs Could Hit Motorways by Mid-2020s

Harman’s vice-president of technology has claimed we could see Level 5 autonomous vehicles on motorways as soon as the mid-2020s.

In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with TU-Automotive, Andrew Till said he thought Level 5 AVs could start appearing “on major arterial roads like freeways and smart motorways” by the mid-2020s. He added that it would be some time yet before they became a presence in major UK cities, due to the infrastructural overhauls that would be involved. However, that would not be a problem for newly-built cities, he claimed.

Q: In what direction do you think the market for artificial intelligence in AVs will go over the next two to three years?

“I think we’ll see, over the next couple of years, a lot of advancement, predominantly in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), allowing us to drive towards a fully formed view of autonomous Level 3. I think what we’ll see is a twofold approach. We’ll see AI developing to take care of in-vehicle functions so you can interact with the AI and tell it to do things like turn up the heating, change radio stations, etc as one branch of how the market develops. The second will be AI that is collecting information off the sensors around a vehicle, particularly the ADAS, and using that data and sharing it with, ideally, multiple manufacturer model lines to build more holistic data understandings of what is happening, how drivers are reacting when the ADAS tech kicks in, what happens when drivers override it, are we able to understand the variables that led to a driver overriding some ADAS technology so that can be factored into future developmental software changes that are being implemented?”

“We also need to be able to understand the environment around the vehicle using particularly forward-looking cameras, video, etc to build out the different data models that are driving the rules that are applied within a lot of the safety technology as we move forward. Then the other bit that I think will be very interesting as we get towards the edge of that three-year time frame and we start approaching, say, 2023 are things like dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) coming in, cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) coming in. So looking at the US where 2023 is the big regulatory year when we have the mandates for bringing all the technology in and new models launched after that, there is an expectation that to keep people as safe as we can, there will have to be some level of AI involved in how those vehicles are communicating with each other or how updates to the systems are being provided to continually enhance the safety levels we are able to provide to vehicles and their drivers.”

Q: How do you think the market will develop beyond 2023?

“I think this is where we’re getting to the really exciting area because I think by the mid-2020s, we are going to start seeing major smart city grid infrastructure projects being rolled out and [getting] well underway. Of course, I would bracket autonomy, if we take the levels out and say – Level 5, let’s jump to that vision. You will have Level 5 on major arterial roads like freeways and smart motorways. Here in the UK, we’re busy laying out the smart motorway infrastructure but employing that in the cities is a whole different ball game. I think it’s going to be fascinating being based here just outside of London. To actually go dig up a street in London and start deploying Internet of Things (IoT) technology, you need 1,000 permits, it’s very time-consuming, and it’s very expensive. To go to some of the newer city developments – let’s take somewhere like some of the new cities that are being developed in Finland. They’re designing this from the ground in. They’re also designing the city to not have parking spaces. Because they expect the AVs will be able to take themselves and park outside the city. So they’re changing the entire parking plan of the city. It’s much greener, it’s got much more space, it’s integrated so if you take the tram or the bus into the heart of the city, it’s counting how many people get on and projecting how many vehicles need to be there to take them from the tram hub to wherever it is they want to go to. This is, I think, the next big wave of autonomous enablement: what happens in the smart city infrastructure space and how quickly that can happen.”

Q: Do you think greater reliance on connectivity by AVs is a good thing, or do you think the use of mapping systems to provide information on a vehicle’s surroundings like those developed by Oxbotica can allow them to function more safely than connectivity?

“I think adding more connectivity is definitely good if it allows us to get more information, from a safety standpoint, into the vehicles. I would absolutely support that. I think the caveat I would add is: we can’t make the car so dependent so that when there is no connectivity available, it becomes dangerous if control is given back to the driver. You will have to have self-contained AI. I think we will see an edge computing scenario coupled with cloud, so the vehicle is capable of making decisions to a certain level of autonomy. Then when it’s got cloud connectivity, because it’s got access to wider data sets and data models for the environment around it beyond where it can immediately see, I think that becomes very compelling from a safety standpoint.”

“I think we’re starting to now see that the understanding of embedded AI, cloud-based AI, and edge-based AI, and how those three all layer together to provide ever greater levels of safety and security to customers is important. However, I do not think we can have a scenario whereby for all cars, as soon as their connectivity is turned off, they become non-functional or dangerous to be driven by a human again because all the systems are designed to be connected.”

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