On September 27, the flagship event of The Autonomous initiative gathered in Vienna and virtually more than 500 industry leaders and experts from over 200 global companies to discuss the importance and urgency of collaboration to achieve safe autonomous mobility.
“We need to set the scene together very clearly. No one can do it alone. What we are doing on autonomous driving is a decade’s job.” — Markus Heyn, member of the Board of Management and Chairman of Mobility Solutions at Bosch.
Global industry leaders and experts from companies including Aptiv, Audi, BMW, Bosch, Infineon, NVIDIA, Mercedes, Mobileye, Volvo, and Amazon Web Services, recently joined The Autonomous’ flagship Main Event to discuss the importance of safety and collaboration for the future of autonomous mobility.
The global autonomous vehicle market is expected to reach $1.6 trillion by 2030, with automated ‘eco-driving’ able to reduce fuel consumption by 15% to 20%. Autonomous technology continues to advance and deliver improvements to the daily lives of millions around the world, sometimes in ways consumers might not even consider when thinking about ‘autonomous’ transport. That is if vehicle safety is guaranteed.
Automation is moving into modern vehicles on different levels. Adaptive cruise control is Level 1, Tesla’s Autopilot Level 2 (excl. FSD) and Mercedes’ Drive Pilot is a Level 3 function for highway use up to 60 kph. Consumers can reap these benefits every day. But vehicles at SAE Levels 1-3 all share one thing: they require human presence, involvement, and intervention.
This is why many companies are working with vast resources on Level 4 technology to make true autonomous driving a reality in the form of self-driving cars. But barriers still exist.
“The mobility industry is facing a historical chance,” said Ricky Hudi, Chairman of The Autonomous, in his introductory remarks. “Especially the safety of autonomous mobility is not an area to compete or compromise on. Safety is about getting it right!”
“With an aligned approach, it is much easier to convince each country’s standardization, regulation, and legal authorities that they can rely on best-in-class solutions, and last but not least, the consumers who may trust similar safety levels for autonomous driving – everywhere in the world.”
He added, “The time to act is now! Let us not wait until harmful accidents force us to collaborate.”
At the Main Event, participants from more than 200 companies across the ecosystem discussed the obstacles autonomous mobility faces and how the industry can hurdle them together to success.
Autonomous Driving: A Systems Problem
The automotive industry is progressing in developing software-defined vehicles, which will not only strongly influence self-driving capabilities but also allow consumers to bring their digital life into the vehicle.
“By 2025, we could see software-defined architectures in the hands of OEMs,” explained Nakul Duggal, Sr. Vice President & General Manager Automotive at Qualcomm, in his keynote. He described autonomous driving as a system challenge: “I don’t think this will be solved in two, three, or five years. Technology will keep improving, and the types of transportation ecosystems that will benefit from safety and autonomy will keep expanding.”
What Are the First Use Cases?
Autonomous vehicles promise several benefits. “What will be the first use-cases? and “How will human-operated and autonomous vehicles share the road?” were among the questions discussed by an expert panel.
“Slow-moving hyperlocal vehicles are the most effective first use case,” said Mike Potts, CEO of StreetDrone, while also expressing skepticism on robotaxis: “There are 1.4 billion operational vehicles globally; in May this year, only 1,400 autonomous vehicles were in operation in the U.S., and half still had a safety driver.”
“The first introduction of autonomous driving is a hub-to-hub case,” said Christoph Hartung, Chairman of the Board of Management at ETAS. “In urban scenarios with buses and robotaxis, we need to see how we can support these vehicles for early introduction with infrastructure-based services.”
Andreas Tschiesner, Senior Partner at McKinsey, endorsed public-private coordination:
“Oslo plans to integrate public transport and try to remove private vehicles from the city. Translated to Vienna, this would replace 90% of traffic with synchronized roboshuttles and reduce costs by 30%. If done in an intelligent way, quality of life will improve.”
“There needs to be more collaboration between advanced technological organizations and the cities,” summarized Mr. Potts. “You cannot just switch to full autonomy transit; that would cause chaos.”
How To Make L4 Systems Safe
Level 4 (L4) systems will be the basis of autonomous driving. Experts discussed the current industry challenges and how to move forward with safe L4 self-driving.
“Level 4 is the most challenging question the auto industry has ever faced,” stated Jens Kötz, Connected Architecture, Energy, and Security Lead at Audi. “Because it’s the first time, everything [including infrastructure] interconnects with the overall car and the system. The total system – in-car and off-car – has to be evaluated in terms of safety requirements.”
“It’s very clear that we need to have redundancy; no single chip, sensor or software component can do it alone,” said Stefan Poledna, CTO at TTTech Auto. “You need to make sure that any single failure can be mitigated.”
“The other underlying topic to solve is to make the systems safe, secure, and highly available,” added Peter Schäfer, Executive Vice President and CMO Automotive at Infineon. “If we have a wonderful Level 4 system and it’s not available, consumers will ultimately lose trust in new systems.”
‘How safe is safe enough?’ Phil Koopman, Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, answered: “The baseline is at least as safe as a human. Also, consider the distribution of fatalities: it’s not okay if fatalities are cut in half, but every single one is a pedestrian.”
Indu Vijayan, Director of Product Management at AEye, added that metrics to validate and a standard metric “are the missing things we need to work toward to make sure L4 systems are safe.”
Mr. Schäfer summarized the need for collaboration to close in on a standardized way: “We need to spearhead working groups to define a feasible approach and share it with the community.”
The Sky Is the Limit For AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology can bolster autonomous driving along with machine learning and neural networks. An expert panel discussed its limits and how humans can still trust the system to be safe. Where is AI most useful in an autonomous vehicle?
“The short answer is everywhere,” says Jens Petersohn, Head of Product Group HAD at Elektrobit. “You can envision all sorts of applications – detection, classification, scene recognition, decision making.”
The potential exists for AI technology because it augments human skills, according to Hermann Hauser, Director at Amadeus Capital Partners:
“AI will make great drivers. Humans don’t have radar or lidar; with the sheer amount of information that AI can fuse together into driving decisions, the bedrock is there.”
“The sky is more than the limit,” agreed Georges Massing, Vice President MB.OS Automated Driving, Powernet & E/E Integration at Mercedes-Benz. “Humans grow and learn, but at a certain point, we start losing our brain. With AI, the machine keeps learning, learning, learning and never goes down.”
“It’s important to create trust,” said Riccardo Mariani, VP of Industry Safety at NVIDIA, adding a caveat. “We are writing new standards and guidelines on AI ethics, and this is a way we create consensus and trust.”
Mr. Massing summarized the future for trustworthy AI:
“AI will try to limit the amount of interaction of the human … so the machine makes its own decisions. Teaching AI to drive how the human drives will increase the level of comfort with autonomous vehicles.” Implementing Level 2 systems will build human trust to “give the full responsibility to the vehicle” at Level 3.
Industry Working Groups: Calling All Car Manufacturers to Participate
The Autonomous initiative supports the future deployment of safe autonomous mobility by facilitating various events, including its annual flagship event in Vienna, and Working Groups that support industry-wide cooperation on safe reference solutions and recommended best practices.
“At the time of last year’s Main Event, we had one Working Group. Today, we are announcing two more thanks to our members and our ecosystem,” said Christoph Schulze, Technology Manager at The Autonomous.
Infineon leads the second Working Group on Safety of Embedded AI, and the Working Group on Safety & Regulation will kick off soon, under the direction of software company Kontrol. Both Working Groups are still open for additional participants.
The first Working Group on Safety and Architecture, established in June 2021, is now delivering initial results: “We worked together with industry participants on a conceptual architecture, in this case, a Level 4 highway pilot,” said Christoph Schulze. The next phase is the evaluation; Mr. Schulze encourages full ecosystem participation, “especially car manufacturers to bring in their requirements and thoughts concerning safe system architecture and design.”
The Future is Now – It’s Time To ACT
“The journey from automation to autonomy is a journey of our generation, and I am very excited because everyone who participates in The Autonomous initiative shows they want to shape this journey.” – Georg Kopetz, Co-founder of TTTech Auto.
The Autonomous welcomes everyone from the industry, government and public who share the same collaborative vision to join the growing ecosystem and answer the industry’s biggest questions. What started as an event in 2019 became a global initiative ready to scale further with help from several international companies and pave the way toward safe autonomous driving while developing a common understanding of safety.
“We laid the foundation within the automotive industry to collaborate on a global scale,” said Philip Schreiner, Head of The Autonomous. “Now, we are inviting the autonomous driving ecosystem to participate and bring industry collaboration to the next level. Only through active and broad participation of all stakeholders can we create the much-needed synergies and solve the biggest safety challenges. This will, in the end, set the basis for customer trust, reduce risk of liability for the industry players, and speed up autonomous driving development.”