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CES Connect2Car: The Anatomy of Autonomy

At CES 2023, the Connect2Car Conference was back in full force, exploring the future of mobility, connectivity, and autonomy. We sat in for the Anatomy of Autonomy panel, where experts from Aurora, AEye, Ford and Foretellix broke down the status of autonomy – looking at where the industry stands, where it’s headed next, and what it will take to get there safely.

Speakers included moderator Nat Beuse, the VP of Safety at Aurora, as well as an expert panel featuring AEye founder and CTO Luis Dussan, Ford executive director of Global Technology Strategy, Research & Advanced Engineering, Matt Jones, and Foretellix CEO and co-founder Ziv Binyamini.

AEye Connect2Car Panel 2023The panelists began the discussion talking about the current state of autonomy. Referencing the SAE self-driving levels, AEye’s Dussan explained that the vision for full autonomy (L5) has been pushed back, but that those systems and their algorithms are being put to good use in L2+ advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), where highway autopilot, traffic jam assist, automatic braking and driver monitoring systems are a big focus.

Foretellix’s Binyamini concurred that the industry is taking the right approach, which is incremental adoption, saying, “The mistake made by the industry is trying to get to the hardest, most complex environment, L4 and L5.” According to Binyamini, the industry should start where it’s easiest to apply these technologies, like highway hub-to-hub, and L2 ADAS systems, where the human driver is in control. “We need to perfect the performance in simpler operational driving domains (ODDs) like highway and mining, then eventually we’ll work our way to full L4 and above.”

L2 partial automation systems like GM’s SuperCruise and Ford’s BlueCruise are becoming more common across vehicle models, and consumers are increasingly gaining confidence in these systems. A recent Safer Mobility Survey conducted by PAVE and AEye found 82% of those surveyed feel safer with ADAS features in vehicles. But with L3 systems like Mercedez-Benz’s Drive Pilot expected to launch in certain parts of the U.S. soon, how can we, as an industry, ensure safe mobility?

Ford’s Matt Jones talked about the responsibility of the industry to educate consumers about the nebulous transition from the driver being in control, to the car being in control, with the driver on “standby” to take over. “Our responsibility when we sell a vehicle is to explain to customers how to make the most of these existing and future intelligent systems. How do we explain to a driver when they can and can’t pay attention, and when we need them in charge of the vehicle? Consumers don’t relate to ‘L’ levels.”

Consumers do pay attention to marketing, however. Reuters reports Tesla is facing a criminal probe over its self-driving claims, with recent surveys showing 42% of Tesla Autopilot drivers believe their cars can entirely drive themselves.

Ford’s Jones stated that, as an industry, we need to look at safety as a mindset. Panelists agreed that ensuring system level safety requires intense testing and continuous certification. Autonomous vehicles must navigate incredibly complex environments, including urban areas, in inclement weather conditions, and in harmony with human drivers, and that means testing millions of different scenarios. Foretellix’s Binyamini emphasized the need to bridge physical with virtual testing and that “every time you do a software update you need to re-run all of your scenarios to make sure you didn’t break anything.”

AEye’s Dussan discussed the technological demands in solving autonomy’s many corner cases – stressing the need to adapt a different architecture in the sensor set, and how it must mate with the software: “The puzzle of autonomy is harder than the industry thought, and we need adaptive sensors to solve it.”

The panelists also called for more standardization in how to operate and interact with these systems and discussed the challenge of increasing standardization, especially infrastructure, without stunting technology.

While agreeing that coalescing on a common set of requirements is incredibly difficult with ADAS systems, they seemed to agree that some standardization is a must: “Most mechanical things will be controlled by digital hardware and software versus a human in 10-20 years,” said Foretellix’s Binyamini, “and the government needs a common language to define scenarios.”

The group finished their discussion by calling on OEMs and others developing the technology to collaborate at a global level to form de facto standards. “How can we talk about the tools and processes we need?” said Ford’s Jones. “We need to talk about the entire vehicle and how it interacts with other vehicles, the cloud and everything else. We will get there faster if we can agree on a common language to define scenarios.”