This dilemma is not resolved until level 4: The driver – frequently then more likely to be a passenger – is allowed to turn his attention completely to other things and, as long as the systems are working, no longer has to keep an eye on what is happening in traffic and no longer needs to be ready for sudden intervention. The car itself now forms the fail-safe system: Even in exceptional situations such as partial or complete system failures, it always has to provide his own exit strategy, including bringing the vehicle to a safe stop. As long as the system is in operation, responsibility is clearly with the vehicle manufacturer for the first time. Numerous companies are already on the road with test vehicles of level 4, and it is expected that such vehicles are scheduled to come onto the roads in production volumes in 2025. ZF will also contribute to this development step with sophisticated safety and assistance solutions.
However, in order to be able to implement fully automated driving in environments with many other traffic users, there are still several hurdles to be overcome in accordance with the present state of technology:
- Car2X and Car2Car communication
Cars must be able to communicate with their environment, with other vehicles and with other road users such as cyclists, pedestrians or trams. Only then can the cross-traffic pre-warning periods be reduced to the required degree in case of complicated intersection situations where detection by sensors is too slow. It is also very difficult for sensors to detect traffic light colors under certain circumstances, making it necessary for them to announce their phases. A uniform standard and the necessary communication infrastructure must be created for all of this.
Just coming into contact with the curb can bring an abrupt end to a relaxing drive. Automated cars therefore need to know where they are driving more precisely than the current GPS resolution and available maps allow. Providers such as Baidu Maps, Google, Here and TomTom are already working hard on high-resolution maps accurate to the centimeter which also contain all kinds of details about the infrastructure. The task is immense, because to allow automated cars to travel around the world, every public road has to be measured and the material must always be up-to-date. But even the most accurate map is useless if the vehicle does not know exactly where it is. Particularly in cities but also in tunnels and other problem areas, a reliable reference system that makes the GPS information even more precise will be essential.
Driver: No longer has to monitor the system.
When: Starting ca. 2025.
From the early 2020s onwards, fully-automated driving is now forecast to become a reality. No one will have to monitor the system anymore, since it can do that itself, ensuring “minimum risk conditions,” be it on the highway, on back roads or in town.