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Traditional Automakers Pursuing Next Level of Self-Driving Cars

Plans to automate routine cruising on highways are being accelerated to become available within five years.

Image: General Motors’ Super Cruise technology. Source: General Motors

Until recently, most traditional automakers have resisted allowing drivers to remove their hands from the steering wheel for extended periods of times over concerns about product liability claims.

Spurred by Tesla’s success, however, automakers appear eager to begin profiting from the billions spent on autonomous driving research. Plans to automate routine cruising on highways are being accelerated to become available within five years.

Tesla’s Autopilot, one of the industry’s first semi-automated driving systems, has been criticized by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for allowing drivers to turn their attention from the road, leading to deadly accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has investigated 15 crashes since 2016 involving Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot.

Without industry-wide standards and confusing terminology like Autopilot, Propilot and Copilot, critics charge that technologies to automate highway driving, parking, navigation in stop-and-go traffic are being deployed in a regulatory vacuum.

Despite these concerns, “Consumers are willing to pay extra – sometimes a lot of money – for advanced technology and features that are convenience-oriented rather than strictly focused on safety,” IHS principal analyst Jeremy Carlson said.

To address liability concerns, some automakers are installing cameras inside vehicles and warning systems to ensure drivers remain attentive to take over manual control when necessary.

“If people don’t know what they’ve got and how it actually operates, that’s a safety issue,” said Former NHTSA Chief Mark Rosekind; now Chief Safety Innovation Officer at self-driving startup Zoox which is being acquired by Amazon.

Jason Levine, head of the Center for Auto Safety advocacy group, said NHTSA should develop minimum performance standards. “Even if consumers know what the feature is supposed to do, there’s no standard to be sure it’s even performing as advertised.”

Autopilot was promoted initially as “hands free,” but Tesla changed its position to insist that drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel when Autopilot is deployed.

On Tuesday, a German court banned Tesla from repeating misleading claims in advertising about its driver assistance systems and that its vehicles were capable of autonomous driving

J.D. Power, Consumer Reports and AAA are trying to convince automakers to agree on standard terminology and definitions, an initiative endorsed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Society of Automotive Engineers.

But even top industry research groups do not agree on labels. Rather than “hands free,” J.D. Power uses the term “active driving assistance” while IHS Markit prefers “extended hands-off driving.”

Detroit automakers have been less aggressive than Tesla in labeling their semi-automated driving systems.

More people are buying or leasing new vehicles with Advanced Driving Assistance Systems, including such features as automated lane keeping (70% of new vehicles) and adaptive cruise control (77%), two key components of most hands-free driving systems, reports J.D. Powers Senior Analyst Kristin Kolodge.


Source: Equities News

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