A revolution in personal mobility is underway. How we power, how we drive and own our vehicles is changing before our eyes. Whether it is alternative powertrains, self-driving vehicles or shared/on demand mobility services – they are all on a trajectory to reshape the world of mobility in our lifetimes.
Let’s talk about one of those elements – how we drive. I wish I could be that 25-year-old engineer today who will help make what once was thought to be purely science fiction – the autonomous vehicle – into reality. On certain roadways across the United States and the world, vehicles with self-driving features are beginning to operate, though an entirely driverless vehicle is still some years away.
And this is no passing trend. According to a report by Business Insider (BI) Intelligence, by the year 2020 nearly 10 million vehicles with self-driving features will be on the road. Google, Tesla Motors, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi have numerous test fleets underway. GM is planning to introduce “Super Cruise,” a semi-autonomous feature that will let a car handle itself on the freeway, next year. Also next year, GM plans to deploy a fleet of robo-Volts (with engineers at the wheel just in case), at the Warren Technical Center. And, to support the development of the technology, the Obama administration is proposing to spend $4B, double what was spent on electrification in the 2009 Recovery Act.
The reasons seem to be two-fold. First, such self-driving features make cars safer. They can anticipate when an accident it likely to happen and take evasive actions to prevent it. Second, they make people’s lives easier. Researchers estimate that the 30,000 deaths on US roads alone could be reduced by as much as 90%. And, they stand to aid the world’s ambition to reduce carbon pollution as families could readily get by with one car instead of two.
Understanding the different levels of self-driving features and automation is crucial to managing the technology as it develops at such a break-neck pace. Not surprisingly, SAE International has been at the forefront of this. SAE has created and published “J3016: Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to On-Road Motor Vehicle Automated Driving Systems.”
This document identifies five levels of driving automation: Driver Assistance, Partial Automation; Conditional Automation; High Automation; and Full Automation. These definitions are now being used throughout by manufactures and professionals throughout the automotive industry.
SAE International’s involvement doesn’t stop there, however. In all, SAE publishes more than 40 technical standards related to the “car of the future,” including how the cars connect and “talk” with each other and the grid.
Self-driving technology is here – it’s relevant and it’s interesting.
Everyday professionals from around the world hold discussions in person or via online sites. A LinkedIn group I belong to houses a diverse lineup of topics . And, the best thing about the conversations is they are real – direct from the engineers themselves.
SAE International sees the value is such discussion. Our online community, Member Connection™, is an excellent resource for professionals to ask questions and post discussions about autonomous vehicles or any other mobility engineering topic or technology. I encourage all SAE members to be an active participant in Member Connection.
Regardless of how fast autonomous driving technologies are developed, the journey to get there is an exciting one. Sharing thoughts and information is part of that excitement. I look forward to sharing with you the innovative things being done here at SAE International with the help of the SAE member community and watching with you as our industry’s revolution takes shape.