The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) has specified a five-gear classification system for this term: the more autonomously a car operates, the more points it gets. The above assistant systems achieve an autonomy level of between 0 and 2. Only when we no longer have to use the steering wheel or press the pedals and can actually trust our beloved car to drive itself can we say "level up" or: welcome to autonomous driving.
The experts all agree that autonomous driving is coming. For instance, it is reckoned that driverless mobility will become part of everyday life by 2030. The international information service IHS Markit expects global sales of level 5 cars to total roughly 6.5 million vehicles in 2035.
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AUTONOMOUS MOBILITY WILL PRODUCE NEW INDUSTRIES AND DISPLACE MANY ESTABLISHED FIRMS
Autonomous driving is ushering in fundamental changes, starting with the technical equipment within vehicles. For instance, clever systems are needed in order to recognise the environment that has to be "learnt". This involves new tasks for cameras, the various sensor systems, and the associated data processing systems. And exciting challenges lie head in terms of interior design. Because people will no longer be driving themselves there'll be time to do other things. So get in and perhaps fold out a worktable, use the multimedia console, or quickly turn the passenger compartment into a "bedroom" for a quick nap.
But digitisation is also up and running even away from the road. Whereas autonomous driving is relatively simple to set up on the motorway where there's no traffic coming in the opposite direction and no traffic lights or pedestrians, it's more of a challenge on country roads and in bustling cities where there are many different types of road users. It can only be achieved through comprehensive networking – of cars with each other as well as between the corresponding equipment, such as traffic management systems and 5G mobile networks together with a cloud-based communications infrastructure.
IS THERE AN ETHICAL SYSTEM THAT APPLIES TO DRIVING?
Even if algorithms will in future be capable of learning, currently an AI-based self-driving car drives as people have programmed it to. Whereas we instinctively weigh up possible courses of action when faced with a dangerous situation, the autonomous vehicle will respond as we have taught it to. And now imagine the following scenario: a child suddenly runs out into the road. Should the car take avoiding action and risk crashing into several cars coming in the opposite direction, or should it take the risk of running the child over? A tricky question to answer, but this type of scenario has to be considered, just as issues relating to insurance, the legal principles, and IT security have to be clarified.
And what about the millions of lorry and taxi drivers? As well as driving schools and, last but not least, the traditional motor trade?
MAN PROPOSES, THE MACHINE DISPOSES
Autonomous driving will give rise to new sectors of the economy, and it will create new services and therefore jobs. Increased car usage rates due to vehicles being used by different people will lead to improved efficiency, reduced energy consumption and lower CO2 emissions. People who are old or ill will become more mobile. Accident rates will decline, and consequently healthcare costs as well. Empty carparks and garages will offer scope for better forms of use than just parking a car which is unused for 80 percent of the time.