La autonomous driving -or automated- is getting closer and closer: Honda has started to market in Japan the world's first automobile with 3 level y Waymo already operates a fleet of robotic taxis level 4 in Phoenix.
There are five levels of autonomous driving according to the cataloging of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) depending on the greater or lesser degree with which these systems assist the driver. Advanced driver assistance systems ADAS they have laid the first stones in the way of this technology. Thanks to them, millions of drivers already enjoy autonomous driving in their Tier 2 vehicles. Their cars can brake, accelerate, keep distance from the vehicle in front of them, stay in lane, or change lanes on their own.
However moving up to level 3 is a huge qualitative leap, since it supposes a true automated driving system that can perform all the tasks that driving encompasses. When the system is connected and the car takes control, the driver does not need to put his hands on the wheel, perform any function related to driving, not even supervise it: only be alert to intervene if the system asks you to do so in a risky situation.
Honda was the first manufacturer to put on the street, this same month of March, a level 3 autonomous driving system. Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Tesla y Cadillac they are very close to launching a similar system in Europe and the United States.
THIS IS HOW IT WORKS SENSING ELITE OF HONDA LEGEND
The system Sensing Elite of Honda Legend has Traffic Jam Pilot, the first automated level 3 technology recognized by the Japanese authorities. This system can drive the car under certain conditions, for example on a highway with heavy traffic.
This system determines the position of the car and the road conditions from the data of high-definition three-dimensional maps, the satellite navigation system and the use of various external sensors (two cameras on the windshield, five radars and as many Lidar sensors, located on the front and rear of the car), which detect the 360º environment around the vehicle. It also monitors the driver through the surveillance camera inside the vehicle.
From all this information, the system performs surveys, predictions and decisions, and exerts high-level control over acceleration, braking, and steering indications to help the driver achieve the highest-quality, smooth ride. While the system controls the car, the driver can watch TV, surf the Internet or use the navigation system on the car's center screen.
This system only works up to 50 km / h and when it detects a dangerous situation, it alerts the driver to get behind the wheel. If the driver is unresponsive, it assists in slowing down and stopping the vehicle, while alerting surrounding vehicles with the hazard lights and horn.
This is in line with the regulations issued by the UN above level 3 of autonomous driving, which requires that non-driving-related screens turn off automatically when the system asks the driver to regain control, a maximum speed of 60 km / h, the obligation for the car to mount a black box , that the system does not work on roads without physical separation between lanes of opposite directions, that the vehicle has the ability to stop in case the driver does not respond and that the system monitors the presence of the driver and his availability to regain control.
In addition to all this, the Honda Legend with Sensing Elite must carry the distinctive Automated Drive in the back of the car to warn other drivers.
DRIVERLESS TAXIS IN PHOENIX
Just five years ago Steve Mahan -a blind person- made the first experimental trip in an autonomous car on public roads. Since the end of 2020, anyone can do it in the American city of Phoenix, where Waymo has an autonomous fleet of taxis open to the public, after years of trials with a small group of users.
According to the company, between 5 and 10% of the trips of this service are already made without a driver. This fleet operates Phoenix and its metropolitan area, which have granted a license for this activity and are an ideal setting for tests due to the low population density and the good weather.
These taxis reach level 4 of autonomous driving, that is, they have a steering wheel, pedals and everything necessary for a driver to take control when they want.