Fleets of autonomous cars and trucks aren’t taking over the roads quite yet, but several technology companies are combining forces to solve the remaining challenges to making autonomy a reality.
A year ago, autonomous vehicles were rumored to be so close to ready for market that ride share companies and transportation logistics firms were preparing for a future without drivers. Elon Musk announced that we were just months away from this societal shift. The US Department of Transportation removed previous testing and regulation guidelines for autonomous vehicles outlined in the 2016 Federal Automated Vehicles Policy. Now, after a number of high-profile failures of real-life road tests, including fatalities, the automotive industry is decelerating this rush to remove drivers. NAV
The Networking for Autonomous Vehicles (NAV) Alliance is a collaboration between electronics and automotive companies working to guide autonomous technology to a point of viability. NAV was founded in 2018 by Aquantia, Bosch, Continental, NVIDIA, and Volkswagen Group of America, and contributors from the electronics world include Amphenol, Leoni, Molex, Rosenberger, Tektronics, and Sumitomo Electric. The NAV Alliance is focused on creating consensus and collaboration around specification, interoperability, testing, and product development with a focus on multi-gig in-vehicle networking technologies. This group aims to find technology solutions that can solve the complex issues that remain barriers to widespread functionality and adoption of autonomous vehicles.
Of particular interest to designers involved with automotive connectivity is the group’s focus on multi-gig Ethernet connectivity inside the car. The alliance is investigating technologies for speeds exceeding 10Gb/s. These highly connected vehicles will command significant bandwidth for their cameras, sensors, infotainment, and other connectivity needs. Outside of the car, widespread 5G infrastructure is still in development in most cities, and 5G is needed to move data from sensors to vehicle systems and automate decision-making and action within milliseconds.
“Innovative autonomous vehicle designs are driving demand for high-speed, in-vehicle networking solutions designed to support faster processing, greater bandwidth, and increased density for vehicle network infrastructures. Secure, high-bandwidth, Ethernet-based, open-architecture solutions represent the future of in-vehicle and V2X connectivity,” said Gary Manchester, manager of new product development for the transportation business division at Molex.
Driverless cars are on the roads in pilot programs around the world. University development programs, ride-share companies, and auto makers are individually exploring a variety of autonomous technologies ranging from driver assist functions to full autonomy. In a recent Quora discussion, Jay Rogers, CEO of LM Industries, a technology-enabled manufacturer focused on mobility products, said that gathering and analyzing data from the autonomous systems now in use or in development is an essential step towards developing systems that will make consumers and regulators confident about the safety and reliability of driverless transportation.
In the meantime, elements of autonomy are becoming part of the 2020 package for many high-end car makers, including features such as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), electronic stability controls, and refined radar and camera systems. Musk’s Tesla cars now come with Autopilot, an ADAS technology that combines adaptive cruise control and lane steering. By 2022, automated emergency braking, a sensor-based technology that can detect cyclists, pedestrians, and large animals, will become standard in most US and European vehicles. However, the driver will remain in the front seat for now. The fully connected and automated car is on its way; it’s just taking a slower, more prudent route to arrive safely.