Autonomous and assisted driving: the differences and levels available on the market

Autonomous and assisted driving: the differences and levels available on the market
Autonomous driving is a technology that, over the last few years, has undergone a rapid and growing evolution, thus reaching levels that until recently could not be rational and achievable. According to recent polls, there is no real preference on the part of motorists; some hope to see more widespread adoption by manufacturers while others still feel rather skeptical about it.

Greater adoption of autonomous and assisted driving systems could allow for safer roads and less travel in the future stressful ; naturally to reach a good level it will be necessary to have a massive use by motorists and, certainly, by car manufacturers.

At present, numerous technologies are available on the road and it is therefore easy to confuse the different examples of systems of circulating automation; the assisted driving systems (also known as ADAS) make it possible to mitigate any errors and distractions while driving, while the autonomous driving systems act actively, taking full control of the car.

Assisted driving

This category includes those systems that make it possible to intervene on the car in certain limited and certain driving conditions. Known as ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistents Systems) are those systems that are able to interact with the driver, improving comfort and safety.

A clear example is represented by the automatic emergency braking systems, now present on almost all the most recent cars, which intervene in case of distraction while driving by accompanying physical action, braking, to a sound signal. and a warning on the infotainment display. Along the same lines we find the blind spot, which signals with an audio warning the approach of a vehicle positioned in the blind spot; here some more sophisticated models can even intervene by correcting the steering of the car.

These systems are therefore capable of interacting with the user and remedying, even actively, dangerous situations, thus mitigating the result; however, they are not to be considered as real active driving systems as they operate only in certain circumstances and occasions.

BLIS - the Volvo system Among the most popular assisted driving systems, cruise is also worth mentioning. control which, over the years, has reached a decidedly high level of efficiency; it is an option that is often and willingly available with a considerable outlay. Some premium manufacturers, such as Audi and Volvo, offer packages with adaptive cruise control for over € 1,500.

The cruise control, in its most advanced version, allows automatic distance maintenance and allows stopping and the restart in a totally automatic way. Adaptive cruise control, however, does not represent an autonomous driving system, but is a device capable of managing an even limited driving situation in complete autonomy. Although the system may appear reliable and well tested, vigilance by the driver is always recommended and recommended, who is never authorized to take his hands off the wheel.

Recognizing a car equipped with this system is relatively simple as there is a striking front radar, hidden by a glossy cover, able to constantly detect the distance between vehicles. Some more imaginative manufacturers have managed, over the years, to perfectly integrate the instrument making recognition complicated even for the most expert eyes.

So is it worth investing in these accessories? We don't have a real mathematical answer available; each case has its own limit situation, often also linked to the cost of the individual components, perhaps discounted during the purchase phase. Without a doubt, they represent a tool to improve safety behind the wheel and potentially avoid possible accidents that could increase the insurance premium and require the car to be repaired. However, it should be emphasized that the repair of an ADAS system, as evidenced by a survey by the American Automobile Association, could significantly increase the cost of repairing a vehicle.

Driving assistants and EuroNCAP

The independent European safety body, known by the name of EuroNCAP, has changed over the years the evaluation method necessary to obtain the maximum score, now also integrating the possible presence of assistance systems such as braking. emergency and lane maintenance.

Autonomous driving

In assisted driving, as mentioned, the car intervenes only to correct or facilitate certain situations, while in autonomous driving the system acts in total autonomy by dealing with all aspects. At present, autonomous driving as we imagine it is not yet available on the public road, but is used only by prototypes traveling in delimited areas as part of still experimental projects.

The autonomous driving that we can find in some science fiction films remain a mirage and only in the next few years will we be able to understand their feasibility on roads open to traffic. Fortunately, however, the system is available with different shades, all defined by SAE International (Society of Automotive Engineers), drawn up in a sort of classification divided into specific categories. Level 0, the entry level, offers no driving support while 5, the highest, allows unprecedented automation.

Here are all the available rankings:

Level SAE automation Autonomous driving Function 0 No No driving support 1 No Passive driving assistance (visual or acoustic danger signals) 2 No Automation and partial safety systems: cruise control with traffic jam 3 Yes Conditioned automation: the car can manage pace and changes of direction in ordinary situations but the driver takes control in case of difficulty 4 Yes High automation: the car fully manages the driving, but in dangerous conditions, such as adverse weather, the driver takes control 5 Yes Full automation : the car is able to handle any driving situation The spread of autonomous driving is influenced by two important factors: technological progress and, of course, current legislation . In Europe, vehicles equipped with a level 2 system are allowed, although more refined models with type 3 automation level (such as Mercedes S-Class) are available on the market. The regulatory transition to level 4 will take place in the next few years, while for level 5 we should wait until 2030.

In the meantime, the United States is working to create a new infrastructure capable of managing and analyzing all tests in detail performed in the field of autonomous driving. The aim is to regulate the technology as soon as possible, also avoiding possible and unpleasant accidents such as the one that occurred in 2018 by an Uber car equipped with autonomous driving.

As for assisted driving, the autonomous variant also requires a rather important expense on the part of the buyer; for example Tesla foresees an outlay of 7,500 euros (on Model 3) for the FSD package able to park, change lanes and drive autonomously.

Tesla Full Self Driving

Autonomous driving and transport

In Europe, more particularly in Belgium, France and Italy, there is a desire to introduce autonomous driving on board vehicles dedicated to public transport. In some countries, such as Germany and Spain, cars capable of navigating city traffic are already available.

Vislab, born from a spin-off of the University of Parma and acquired by a Silicon company Valley, would be the first entity authorized by the Technical Observatory for Smart Roads of the Ministry of Transport to experiment with an autonomous car in an Italian urban context. In order to allow constant control, the presence of a human operator is expected to be able to act quickly in case of dangerous situations.

How does it work?

In order to function, an autonomous driving system must be able to analyze in detail what is happening around the car; to do this it uses the joint work of several sensors, such as radar, ultrasound and Lidar.

Radar sensors exploit the Doppler effect to calculate the speed and distance of vehicles, emitting a series of waves necessary to measure the distance quickly. The range of the radar can even exceed 200 meters and thus allow a decidedly in-depth analysis. Ultrasound and Lidar, on the other hand, operate at low speeds and are able to scan the area surrounding the vehicle up to a maximum of 6 meters away, recording the presence of any obstacles on the path.

The sensors are not they are the only devices used in autonomous driving, in fact there are also cameras and GPS, two systems that effectively replace the human eye. A further system not yet fully refined is the possibility of interconnecting with other vehicles and “mapping” the surrounding area on a larger scale; this is still a difficult situation to achieve given the scarce presence on the road of vehicles equipped with advanced autonomous driving.

All the data collected by the various sensors are finally processed in a few fractions of a second by a central system which, according to the conditions, it intervenes on the different actions of the car.

Is there a regulation in Italy?

If the roads are getting closer to being more and more compatible with new technologies, we cannot say the same as the regulatory framework. To date, there is no specific legislation on artificial intelligence and interconnected vehicles.

In the event of an accident, using an active autonomous driving system, the regulations provided for by the Consumer Code on the subject could be applied to products defective; in this case it will be the manufacturer to respond directly to the damage caused by the intrinsic defects of the product. However, the application of this law would be a considerable stretch as the car would not be affected by a production defect, but by incorrect behavior; in other words, it is the driver's responsibility to interpret the intention of the artificial intelligence and intervene to correct any action considered harmful. For this reason, in fact, at the moment, it is required to always be vigilant while driving and keep your hands on the wheel.

In the case of a hacking attack, the situation could instead vary and in-depth investigations would be necessary on a possible responsibility of the software manufacturer or even of the algorithm creator. One solution could be to insert a black box, to be used as a filter, capable of managing and recording all actions; an instrument already in use by some insurance companies and in some European countries precisely on the subject of autonomous driving.

Once again, however, we would be faced with an interpretative effort not directly linked to the problem; with autonomous driving it is therefore necessary to “break away” from the traditional concept of responsibility and find a more precise and indicated regulatory framework. In the absence of an ad hoc discipline, it is desirable that the legislator revises the traditional laws to adapt them to new innovations.

Autonomous driving: where are we?

To have a complete adoption the road is definitely still long, but an honorable mention goes to the Californian manufacturer of the visionary Elon Musk, Tesla, who in addition to demonstrating the possibility of electric mobility has managed to develop an advanced level autonomous driving system. In addition to Tesla, it is worth mentioning Waymo, a Google company, which has created a fleet of fifth-level cars (with Chrysler and Jaguar) capable of operating in total autonomy in certain specific areas authorized by the competent authorities.

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