Autonomous cars revolutionize intelligent transportation
Editor / Provider: Christine Chien, a&s International | Updated: 2/3/2014 | Article type: Hot Topics
Recently, automobile manufacturers such as Ford, BMW, Audi, and several others, have been releasing new models of semi-autonomous cars. Experts are also making predictions that fully autonomous cars will be available within the next 10 years.
Once the technology reaches full maturity, there will no longer be a need for human drivers. By utilizing improved sensors and cameras, autonomous cars will revolutionize intelligent transportation systems (ITS) through vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication in the future. By utilizing the integrated network, cars will be able to communicate with each other, surrounding infrastructures, and the system itself, effectively reducing the number of accidents, the time and energy wasted in traffic by speeding up vehicle mobility, and pollution from the emission of carbon dioxide from fuel exhaust. Currently, Google is at the forefront of driverless car research and testing, already logging an accident-free record of over 400,000 miles since April 2013.
Based on a report from a non-partisan US think tank, the Eno Center for Transportation, “Preparing a Nation for Autonomous Vehicles: Opportunities, Barriers, and Policy Recommendations” claims that even with adoption rates of just 10%, autonomous vehicles have the potential to save the US economy at least $25 billion annually, while 50% of crashes and related injuries could essentially be avoided.
According to its estimated figures, if 10% of the vehicles on the road are autonomous, it could lead to 211,000 fewer serious crashes and 1,100 fewer deaths per year. In order to eradicate all accidents in which human error is proven to be a factor, a full 90% of vehicles would need to be autonomous. One of the technologies that can be used to prevent such accidents is the collision avoidance system. The application of the collision avoidance system is presently in the niche stage but it is expected to grow at a rapid rate in the coming five years, according to MarketsandMarkets.
The major reason behind the growth of collision avoidance systems is due to the improvement that will be made for the communication technology between vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure.
Acting as a precursor to fully autonomous cars, semi-autonomous cars are progressively becoming more visible in the market, which will ultimately lead to increased adoption.
According to MarketsandMarkets, the semi-autonomous market for passenger cars will be worth $21.4 billion by 2018. Europe has consistently been the first region where innovative and sophisticated technologies are popularized at a high rate. Meanwhile, APAC is the largest passenger car market in the world, with estimated sales of over 30.9 million passenger cars in 2013. This market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.5% over the next 5 years.
Furthermore, APAC will be a major market for semi-autonomous cars due to improving infrastructures, changing government policies towards safety, changing lifestyles, and etc. The report also indicates that in the next few years, many countries including China, Korea, and Japan, will make some of the driver assistance systems mandatory in passenger cars.
In Europe, the Automotive Council UK is investing approximately $1 billion to deploy a fleet of 100 driverless vehicles in Milton Keynes by 2017. These vehicles will be fully electric and equipped with sensors and software for autonomous navigation to provide taxi services between downtown and the train station. In the Swedish city of Gothensburg, Volvo Car Group will play a large role in "Drive Me – Self-driving cars for sustainable mobility," a large-scale autonomous driving pilot project in which 100 self-driving cars will use the public roads in everyday conditions. This project is a joint venture initiative between Volvo, the Swedish Transpot Administration, Lindholme Science Park, and the City of Gothensburg. The research and development phase of the project will commence in 2014 and the first cars are expected on the road in 2017. In China, the city of Hangzhou recently made an agreement with Kandi Technologies to lease 20,000 electric vehicles to test the new technology.
Autonomous Vehicle Solutions
2 main technologies are used for autonomous vehicles to allow them to properly and safely travel on the roads according to KPMG — sensor-based solutions and connected-vehicle solutions. Sensor-based solutions, also known as advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), allow cars to monitor and provide proper response to their surroundings by using a combination of advanced sensors, such as stereo cameras and long- and short-range radars, coupled with actuators, control units, and integrating software.
The sensor-based solutions allow for features such as lane-keeping and warning systems, adaptive cruise control, back-up alerts, and parking assistance. However, technological limitations still exist. Current sensors still have a limited perception of the external environment, and are not yet capable of perceiving it as accurately as a human being. That is, humans use a combination of stored memory and sensory inputs to determine how to react to different situations, but sensors must use highly complex algorithms to replace what took humans years to learn through experience. Also, these sensors are still extremely costly at this juncture.
Connected-vehicle solutions use wireless technologies for real-time communication between vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I). The leading wireless medium for V2V communication is using radio waves known as dedicated short-range communication (DSRC). According to KPMG's report, it operates at a frequency of 5.9 GHz , using standards such as SAE J2735 and the IEEE 1609 suite (protocols that establish what messages are sent, what the messages mean, and how they are structured), and is being tested meticulously to see if it can fully support V2V cooperative safety applications.
The DSRC is currently the only short-range wireless communication that offers fast network acquisition, low latency, high reliability, priority for safety applications, interoperability, and security and privacy. However, connected-vehicle solutions face some challenges such as mass adoption, infrastructure modification (infrastructures must be built with the DSRC-compliant transceivers, but funding is a problem), and dependency on sensors, though not everything is or can be connected to sensors, such as pedestrians or wandering pets.
According KPMG's conclusion, if these 2 solutions converge, it will facilitate the imitation of human senses, reduce the need for an expensive mix of sensors, and provide the necessary level of functional redundancy to ensure that the technology will work 100% of the time.
Laws and Regulations
As autonomous cars have always been seen as something from futuristic movies, their emergence is prompting a series of regulatory discussions at both the federal and state level in the U.S. Effective since July 2013, Washington D.C., Florida, Nevada, and California have enacted legislation permitting the operation of automated vehicles on public roads for testing purposes. Amongst the 9 other states discussing the possible bills that can be passed to regulate these vehicles, Michigan is the only state that is likely to pass legislation that permit the operation of autonomous vehicles. One major problem in the U.S. is that states tend to lead the way in passing regulations for autonomous cars, which means there could be 50 different sets of regulations and laws concerning these vehicles.
To address this on a federal level, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration outlined the definition of an autonomous vehicle and issued a working policy statement in May 2013 advising all states to leave safety standards up to federal regulators.
As for Europe, the European car-makers must work within the framework of the Vienna Convention, which can be a potential obstacle to the rollout of fully autonomous vehicles since it states that“every driver shall, at all times, be able to control his vehicle or to guide his animal.”
Transportation of Tomorrow
Current traffic laws and regulations are made on the basis of human drivers, but once human drivers are replaced, traffic laws and regulations will have to target the machine or intelligence driving the cars. Also, not only will standard wireless protocols allow cars to communicate with each other and with ITS as a whole, it will allow government agencies, automobile manufacturers, and traffic control systems to communicate with each individual vehicles as well. This will eventually lead to a transportation system that will be nothing like what we are familiar with today.
“Gathering information is one part of the whole picture, but the real challenge is to share this as widely as possible with cars, infrastructures, traffic control centers, emergency centers, etc., by using standards which are not expected to be established soon. Car toX communication is the next important step forward,” said Enzio Schneider, Product Line Manager ITS at Basler.
On the other hand, something that can be expected after the full integration of autonomous vehicles and ITS are the increase in toll roads. “Cars these days are becoming increasingly more hybrid or electric. However, this presents a problem in that cars will now be using less and less gas. Previously, a part of taxes on gas will go into the nation's transportation systems and departments. Once these cars stop needing gas, the government will have to make money through other methods, in this case, increase in toll roads on the highways. This will definitely be a trend,” stated Mitch Yang, President of EtherWAN.