How fleets can benefit from self-drive tech
Are entirely self-driving cars really around the corner? Which autonomous solutions are already available today? What does the road map towards full autonomy look like? And how can corporate fleets benefit from the technology – today and tomorrow? Those were some of the issues explored in the third and final session of the Fleet Europe Forum in Barcelona.
First up was Lior Sethon (pictured), VP & deputy GM at Mobileye Aftermarket Division. Mobileye, an Intel company, is a world leader in advanced safety technology.
He started with a few safety stats – by now depressingly familiar: “About 1.25 million people die each year because of road traffic crashes; up to 50 million people suffer non-fatal injuries; and crashes cost most countries 3% of their GDP”.
Mobileye is at the vanguard of the technology that will fix this. “Fully autonomous vehicles could reduce accidents by an estimated 90%, once AVs become the primary means of transport”, Mr Sethon said, but: “Society will not accept robotic vehicles killing people on the streets. So, autonomous driving will not happen unless it’s dramatically safer than human driving”.
That’s why Mobileye is making a concerted, sustained and multilayered effort to remove human error from the driving equation. Mr Sethon showed a clip of the traffic chaos at Paris’s Place de l’Etoile, rumoured to be the only place in the country not covered by car insurance policies. “If the autonomous car can’t drive here, it won’t exist”.
Mobileye is well on the way to providing that solution, using camera-centric sensing, crowd-sourced mapping and machine learning, among other means. Its available technology can be retrofitted in vehicles, and thus reduce accidents by a considerable degree.
Mobileye is piloting its autonomous fleet in Jerusalem. Clips showed how smoothly and intuitively the vehicles reacted to their ‘non-autonomous’ fellow cars. “Other drivers don’t recognise our autonomous cars as such – because they don’t drive like my grandmother. They move as if piloted by regular drivers, with standard assumptions about other vehicles on the road”.
A new Mobileye project involves mapping eight major cities around the world – using corporate fleets, which reap immediate benefits from using the technology.
A good point indeed: How can autonomous technology benefit corporate fleets, today and tomorrow? Robert Kempf, Vice President Sales and Business Development ADAS/Autonomous Driving at Harman International, was at hand to share his insights on how to organise a self-driving future in an intelligent way, with maximum benefits for business, society and drivers.
“The bottom line: autonomous driving is coming and will impact the fleet industry – so you need to prepare”, he said. Most autonomous technology is at Level 1 or 2: providing assistance to drivers without taking over control. “It will really become interesting – and disruptive – from Level 4 and 5, and even Level 3. Because this will give drivers time to do something else while driving. These productivity gains will turn the vehicle from a simple means of transport into a ‘third room’ where you can relax or work”.
Mr Kempf estimates that by 2070, virtually all cars on the road will be autonomous. But that’s a long way away. By 2035, around 25% of new cars will be Level-3 capable. Trust is an issue. “Cost is a problem as well: price for this technology goes up exponentially from one level to the next”.
While technology, legislation and user acceptance are major issues, there will also be benefits for fleets – beyond improved safety – of autonomous tech; improved residual values, for one. But more importantly, and perhaps crucially, rich cloud services platforms, facilitating autonomy, will also be key enablers for autonomous-vehicle monetisation.
Closing the third session, and the Fleet Europe Forum, was Richard Schram, Technical Manager at Euro NCAP, the European New Car Assessment Programme, known for the stars they give when testing new vehicles. Euro NCAP now also tests autonomous technology as it exists in current models.
“Euro NCAP aims to highlight automated driving technologies and raise awareness of their benefits”, he said. “We will continue to challenge vehicle manufacturers to offer the best possible safety as standard in all car segments and markets, protecting car occupants and also looking out for other road users”.
Mr Schram pointed out that current autonomous systems can do no more than assist drivers, although manufacturers are often tempted to suggest otherwise – for example by including the term ‘pilot’ in the name for their ADAS.
Finding clear variance in the sophistication and utility of ADAS systems as used by various manufacturers, Euro NCAP has one main recommendation to fleet owners: “When used as intended, Driver Assist Systems can provide the driver with a more comfortable, less stressful driving environment and help keep a safer distance from the vehicles in front”.