How close are autonomous cars? “So close, but so far,” says expert

January 5, 2023
Editor, Canadian auto dealer magazine


The world of the Jetsons was supposed to be here by now, but though our information, communication systems and computing abilities are compatible with the cartoon, we neither have flying cars, nor autonomous vehicles in our daily lives yet. So how close are we to truly autonomous vehicles, and what can auto dealers tell customers about when they will be able to procure one, so they can give up the steering wheel forever?

We already have become familiar with some self-driving features: cruise control, lane alerts and parking assistance. This is considered “Level 2” according to AI and autonomous driving technology-savvy expert Chris Piche, the Founder of Smarter AI, a leader in AI cameras and enablement software. “The most common definitions that people use are level two, level four and level five. So I think there are, there are many systems today which are operating at level two, and that’s basically, you know, some level of assistance for cruising and parking.” Piche, who owns a Tesla with Full Self-Driving mode, put Tesla’s autonomy level at a four.

“The degree to which it can assist you know sort of varies based on the complexity of the driving situation. You know, straight roads, left turns, right turns, simple lane changes it does perfectly, 99 per cent of the time. But if you’re talking about more complicated scenarios, it’s, it’s probably, only 50 per cent self-driving.”

Tesla is not the only OEM working on autonomous driving capabilities, but the fact that it already has a beta version on the road is giving it a big advantage in terms of gathering data for its systems. “There are several companies that are working on autonomous driving. Tesla is much further along in terms of actual deployment of self-driving technology than any of its competitors. And that in itself, just being further along, is a competitive advantage because the more you deploy it, the more data you collect, the smarter it becomes.”

Cars are going to have to communicate with each other, as well as infrastructure for autonomous vehicles to really take time, and that is going to take more connected vehicles on the road. “We’re probably some number of decades away from level five,” said Piche. “It requires, in my opinion, some additional technology above what we have now in single vehicles. What are known as V to V or V to X technologies. So the ability for one vehicle to communicate with other vehicles and ability for vehicles to communicate with traffic infrastructure, like traffic signals, intersections, and vice versa.”

For a more in-depth look at what is accelerating and what is holding back the autonomous future, read the February issue of Canadian auto dealer magazine.

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