The AV industry continues to evolve across many aspects, including use cases, safety standards, technologies, and many others.
The autonomous vehicle (AV) industry continues to evolve across many aspects: technologies, use cases, safety standards, safety legislation, and many others. This column explores what key factors are driving and shaping the AV industry.
The figure below helps contextualize the current AV landscape by summarizing some of the key SAE definitions, hardware and software technologies, legislations, and regulations currently shaping the AV industry.
SAE AV terminology
SAE terminology is key to understanding AVs because it describes the capabilities each vehicle must have to be considered autonomous (either partially or fully).
AV use cases
There are two segments — passenger transportation and goods transportation — each with multiple categories.
In the passenger transportation category, AVs have to replace or augment trips by individual vehicles and/or trips by mass–transit systems.
AVs for ride–hailing or robotaxis are currently the leading segment and opportunity for individual vehicle trips. Eventually, AV software technology will advance enough to allow personal AV deployment.
AVs for fixed routes are the main deployment option for mass-transit systems. The ISO 22737 Low–Speed Autonomous Driving (LSAD) standard is especially important for fixed–route AVs. Many mass-transit operators are exploring the introduction of vans and small buses for fixed–route AVs for existing bus routes.
In goods transportation, AVs have to replace or augment goods deliveries in three categories: first–, middle–, and last–mile transport.
First–mile delivery refers to the first stage of goods transportation. For a manufacturing company, this is from the factory to a customer warehouse. For a retailer, the first mile is from a large warehouse to a smaller local warehouse or store. A key characteristic is that first–mile delivery is primarily interstate or highway travel. Large autonomous trucks are the main AVs for this segment.
The middle mile is usually from a small warehouse or distribution center to a store or fulfillment center such as a customer pickup location. There is less highway or interstate driving for middle–mile deliveries, resulting in lower speeds and more complex traffic patterns. There can be some overlap in how first–mile and middle–mile are used. Small autonomous trucks or vans are the main AVs for this segment.
The last mile is delivery from a retail location or fulfillment center to the end customer’s home location. The route is primarily low–speed and may have complex traffic patterns in large cities. Suburban deliveries are where most tests and trials are deployed today. Much innovation has been developed for last–mile deliveries, including sidewalk AVs and on–road goods–only AVs.
The vision software platform completes event detection and object detection/recognition based on sensor data.
The software driver platform is the most crucial element because it has to complete all DDTs and OEDR functions. Ideally, the performance would be flawless; however, that is not yet feasible.
The sensor portfolio varies by use case, with robotaxis having as many as 30 cameras, 20 radar sensors, 16 light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors, and far–infrared sensors.
The sensor system cost for robotaxis is significant, primarily due to LiDAR prices. In 2020, an AV with $55K worth of hardware and a 30–sensor system would have as much as 80 percent of the total hardware cost invested in sensor tech. By 2025, while the same hardware will cost just $10,000, the sensors will remain 70 percent of the total hardware cost.
AV hardware is defined by the computer system and will require constant performance advances to meet the increasing demands of the software driver platform. Redundant computer system architecture is a must to prevent system failures.
AV computers must follow emerging technology and safety standards described below. The computers must also meet necessary cybersecurity and software legislation and compliance regulations.
Legislation and standards
As AV usage increases, new legislation and regulations are necessary to ensure the safety of those using and in proximity to AVs.
ISO 21448 extends functional safety to AVs. UL4600 extends safety to AVs with no human intervention. IEEE P2851 is a formal, mathematical model that applies a technology–neutral approach for avoiding crashes, based on Mobileye technology.
The German OpenODD project is a future standard for describing ODDs and defining where AVs can drive. The goal is to create a machine–readable format to represent ODD specifications. An ODD should be valid through the operating life of an AV.
The ODD is used for the functional specification of AVs. It specifies what static and dynamic environmental parameters an AV must manage. They include all types of traffic participants, the weather conditions, the infrastructure, the location, the time of day, and everything else that can have an impact on driving situations.
AV development remains a leading focus for the automotive and transportation industries. This relatively fledgling vertical still requires significant technological advances that are on the way, even if they seem to move more slowly than predicted.
As expected, the legislation and regulations required to govern autonomous vehicles and their usage move more slowly than new technology is created. The AV industry is pushing for legislative actions in many countries with some recent success stories. There are indications in several countries around the world that legislative and safety regulations will happen soon. As they do, expect to see continued growth in the AV sector.
This article was originally published on EE Times.
Egil Juliussen has over 35 years’ experience in the high-tech and automotive industries. Most recently he was director of research at the automotive technology group of IHS Markit. His latest research was focused on autonomous vehicles and mobility-as-a-service. He was co-founder of Telematics Research Group, which was acquired by iSuppli (IHS acquired iSuppli in 2010); before that he co-founded Future Computing and Computer Industry Almanac. Previously, Dr. Juliussen was with Texas Instruments where he was a strategic and product planner for microprocessors and PCs. He is the author of over 700 papers, reports and conference presentations. He received B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Purdue University, and is a member of SAE and IEEE.