An announcement was made from UK public company AB Dynamics. Their financial results were very good, but it was interesting to read their comments on vehicle technology.
The company specialises in testing systems for major car manufacturers including a range of driving robots, soft vehicle and pedestrian targets and driving simulators.
This is just what is needed to test the new Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles (“self-driving” vehicles) that all car manufacturers are now investing a large amount of money in developing.
For example Elon Musk of Tesla recently predicted that his cars will have self -driving capability by mid-2020 – they just need the software upgrading to achieve that he claims. He also promised a fleet of “robo-taxis” by the same date. These claims were greeted by a lot of skepticism and quite rightly.
This is what AB Dynamics had to say on the subject in today’s announcement: “There will be many phases to the development of fully autonomous vehicles and we foresee extended periods of time before they can satisfy a significant part of society's mobility requirements. There remain significant barriers to adoption including technical, ethical, legal, financial and infrastructure and these challenges will result in the incremental implementation of ADAS systems over many years to come. The ongoing regulatory environment and consumer demand for safety are also driving technological advancements in global mobility requirements and this provides a highly supportive market backdrop to the Group's activities”.
I can tell you that the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) is also very wary of self-driving vehicles. None of the vehicles under test offer anything like the reliability needed for fully-automated operation and expecting human operators to take over occasionally (e.g. in emergencies where the vehicle software cannot cope), is totally unrealistic.
In other words, even “level 3” operation for self-driving vehicles which requires drivers to take over when needed is fraught with difficulties and offers little advantage to the user because they have to remain awake and alert at all times, something not likely to happen in reality.
Image (ABD logo added): Diablanco (Commons Wikimedia)