Industry Insight | Autonomous Cars

Is the Future Here?

Technology has long been considered and has indeed become, a valued companion in our homes. From conversations on landlines to watching history unfold on TV sets. Today, as predicted, we ask the assistants in our home more questions than we physically type in our phones. Besides offering unprecedented levels of connectivity, which in a pandemic was perhaps a lifeline for many in 2020 and indeed in 2021, technology has integrated into the everyday fabric of our lives, satisfying never-ending curiosities, keeping generations entertained with stories, films and even puzzles, yet in the case of autonomous driving; technology works hard to keep us safer.

It may not be the flying cars we once anticipated, but autonomous driving is tantalisingly close to becoming a part of our everyday landscape. Courtesy an article in Zenoot, we know that in the UK alone, there is currently a ‘revolutionary new ecosystem nearing completion in the Midlands. Created by HORIBA MIRA, the new globally-unique autonomous vehicle development centre, known as ASSURED CAV’  has been specifically developed to enable multiple stakeholders in the industry to come together to experiment with self-driving car technology.

More than just a location for vehicle testing, ASSURED CAV will be providing a central location for organisations to lead both development and verification of self-driving technologies. These lessons can then be applied to influence future legislation, policy and insurance with overall assurance to see that autonomous vehicles work to improve lives.

ASSURED CAV’S combination of facilities, which amount to a £100m investment, are due to open in March this year. The site will host as example:

  • A high-speed facility to enable autonomous vehicles to be tested with real world driving conditions such as traffic merging and lane keep assist at international regulatory protocols.
  • Urban vehicle stimulations with pedestrians, cyclists, complex junctions and on-street parking.
  • A purpose-built multi-storey car park which will support the development of automated valet parking. For example – car passengers will be able to exit their vehicle, as the car finds its own parking space and returning to the passenger at a designated waiting area on demand.

It’s A Long Road to Success

A recent article from The Guardian told the story of how transport disrupter Uber has ‘officially ditched efforts to develop its own self-driving car with the four billion dollar sale of its driverless car division to silicon valley start-up, Aurora.’

Uber was actually much further ahead than rivals such as Google and Tesla in the race to develop ‘Robotaxis’ however, in 2018, the sad demise of a woman crossing a road in Arizona at the hands of one of Uber’s cars, caused irreversible brand damage and saw the loss of both confidence and trust in the company’s emerging technology.

It’s not a complete loss for Uber however, as part of the deal with Amazon backed Aurora, they have retained a 26% share in the firm. Uber’s Chief Executive plans to join Aurora’s board to help bring driverless cars to its network in the coming years. “Few technologies hold as much promise to improve people’s lives with safe, accessible and environmentally friendly transportation as self-driving vehicles.”

The Importance of Planning and Infrastructure

Pioneers are the lifeblood of technological advances and Honda’s new Legend is poised to find a home on busy motorways in 2021. An article from Verge explained how Honda has made the bold claim to mass produce autonomous vehicles capable of performing 100% of driving tasks under certain conditions, with vigilant drivers remaining on to stand-by to take control as required.

In the current home of autonomous driving, Honda is somewhat of an anomaly in developing a Level 3 vehicle in the Legend, many are aiming to directly mass produce and release Level 4 cars. To explain further, Level 3 is classified as a highly automated vehicle which still requires driver intervention on request. Level 4 signifies the vehicle being able to resolve most situations itself whilst (for now) the largely theoretical Level 5 will be completely autonomous.

Honda has received approval from Japan’s ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to mass produce Level 3 vehicles and plans to do so by as early as March this year. Under the deal with the Japanese government, the vehicles will include a data recorder to track its movements, whilst clear visible signage will denote to other road users the autonomous capabilities of the Legend.

It has also been stipulated that the vehicle must include a driver monitoring system which tracks the attention and behaviour patterns of the driver. This could mean cameras or infrared sensors to determine whether or not the drivers eyes are on the road. There are also strict requirements regarding the ‘handover’ between the cars self-driving software and the driver.

The successful mass emplacement of autonomous cars relies on government trust and investment in infrastructure in equal measure. The harmonious synchronisation of the two is what will ultimately aid an effective transition to self-driving cars, particularly those in the Level 4 categorisation.

One of the largest milestones to the implementation of Level 4 cars in the UK took place in Oxford in the closing months of 2020. A government backed effort saw a fleet of six Ford Modeo’s outfitted with autonomous technology from developer Oxbotica, operating in a nine mile circuit from Oxford Parkway Station to the City’s main train station in both day and night conditions.

The purpose of this experiment in the words of Paul Newman, co-founder and Chief Technical Officer at Oxbotica is to “train our AI to produce a syllabus for other AI’s to learn from. This experiment offers remarkable scaling opportunities.” You can read more about the experiment from Autoweek.

What This Means for Manufacturing

To match the intelligent capabilities of modern motors, it is somewhat given that smarter, more connected technology will be relied upon to manufacture the smart cars of the future.

McKinsey state that “Acceleration is the watchword. Industry 4.0 – which includes connectivity, advanced analytics, automation and advanced manufacturing technologies, helps companies transform their operations in everything from production efficiency to product customisation.”

Working with an extensive range of leading car manufacturers and Tier 1 MVI suppliers such as Vauxhall, Nissan and Marelli, the team at Abbey Industrial Solutions possess the skill, expertise and supplier product ranges from multiple prominent tooling manufacturers, to support customers in implementing solutions designed to facilitate the future of motoring.

Our relationships with assembly tooling specialists such as Cleco and Sturtevant Richmont, expedite the provision of Industry 4.0 ready bespoke solutions, to improve quality and efficiency in manufacturing.

For effective solutions to maximise your manufacturing productivity, contact the team today.

01294 224240 | discover@abbeyis.co.uk

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