Expected Timeline for Full Autonomy

The race for who will be the first automotive OEM to have fully autonomous cars on the streets is in full swing. According to the definition of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) there are six levels of autonomy:

Level 0: Automated system has no vehicle control, but may issue warnings.

Level 1: Driver must be ready to take control at any time. Automated system may include features such as Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Parking Assistance with automated steering, and Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA) Type II in any combination.

Level 2: The driver is obliged to detect objects and events and respond if the automated system fails to respond properly. The automated system executes accelerating, braking, and steering. The automated system can deactivate immediately upon takeover by the driver.

Level 3: Within known, limited environments (such as freeways), the driver can safely turn their attention away from driving tasks.

Level 4: The automated system can control the vehicle in all but a few environments such as severe weather. The driver must enable the automated system only when it is safe to do so. When enabled, driver attention is not required.

Level 5: Other than setting the destination and starting the system, no human intervention is required. The automatic system can drive to any location where it is legal to drive.

A timeline published today by Business Insider tries to predict – based on what the OEMs said – when each manufacturer will reach what autonomy level. Funny enough, two of the leading companies were simply left out: Tesla and Waymo (formerly Google).

That’s why I decided to create a new chart where both companies are included. And the picture looks very different.

autonomy_level

As we know, since October Tesla has been equipping all new cars with the Autopilot hardware kit, and it’s expected that somewhere late 2017 or early 2018 the software will be ready. From that moment on all Teslas will likely have level 5 autonomy.

Waymo on the other hand started equipping the first 100 Fiat Chrysler Pacifica minivans with its self-driving car techology, and will likely begin tests of its own taxi fleet in the next weeks. With that move Fiat-Chrysler, which had been prominently absent from its own development of self-driving cars, will be catapulting itself to a top position thanks to the collaboration with Waymo.

There have been multiple attempts on showing a timeline for autonomous driving, most prominently here and here. Why Business Insider’s time horizon left Tesla and Waymo out of, is beyond my grasp.

5 Comments

  1. Hi Mario,
    Interesting website and articles here!

    There’s an incredible amount of self-driving car marketing hype in the media and that makes (the already difficult task of) forward-looking statements especially troublesome. My humble thoughts:

    * you’ve put Tesla and Waymo as SAE lvl 5 by mid-2018; it’s hard to believe anybody will have a *prototype* lvl-5 for another 3-4 years minimum; likely more (no driver needed ANYWHERE where humans can legally drive; fallback performance also by system, not remote assistance or human). True production lvl-5 ordinary folks can buy? Experts tell me maybe a decade from now… I do hope it happens earlier (robotaxi use case likely will)

    * If lucky, by 2018/early 2019 we’ll have SAE lvl-4 in closed-campus environments or similar geo-fenced and/or limited use case driving modes (prototypes already happening now ie Easy Mile, Auro and (non-lvl 4) nuTonomy). If VERY LUCKY we might have pilot projects of SAE lvl-4 in other geo-fenced driving modes (highway, low speed traffic-jam on highway, etc) by that time. Looking at folks like Otto here, because their customers can afford higher package costs and ROI is comparatively high.
    Note: all above references SAE autonomy levels.

    I hope I’m wrong and things progress quicker šŸ™‚

    Thoughts?

    Like

    1. I have of course a reason that I based this evaluation. And that is the ubiquity of the Tesla Autopilot Hardware Kit. I wrote an article recently of how many of those cars will be on the road by end of next year (and how many are already out there right now). Those hardware kits are already passively collecting driving data. So over the next months there will be so much data collected over a vast regional area, that this crowdsourced driving experience will directly go into the autonomous drive technology.
      There have been now videos published of a Tesla driving on Autopilot on a snow-covered street without visible lane markers and still holding the lane. That is a precursor of what Tesla has already gathered in data and what it is able to do.
      Imagine how many millions of miles all Tesla-cars will have collectively gathered that feed the AI-system for autonomous driving. By the end of this year (a few months earlier or later), the latest over-the-air-update by Tesla will give each Tesla Model S, X, and 3 the collective driving experience data, turn on the Autopilot Hardware Kit, make full use of it and achieve Level 5.

      This is an exponential technology. We are used to think linearly, progress happening slowly. But we are talking about machine learning and AI, and with 100,000+ Teslas with Autopilot hardware kit the cars will become very quickly very much better – driving autonomously.

      Like

  2. Hi Mario,
    Interesting website and articles here!

    There’s an incredible amount of self-driving car marketing hype in the media and that makes (the already difficult task of) forward-looking statements especially troublesome. My humble thoughts:

    * you’ve put Tesla and Waymo as SAE lvl 5 by mid-2018; it’s hard to believe anybody will have a *prototype* lvl-5 for another 3-4 years minimum; likely more (no driver needed ANYWHERE where humans can legally drive; fallback performance also by system, not remote assistance or human). True production lvl-5 ordinary folks can buy? Experts tell me maybe a decade from now… I do hope it happens earlier (robotaxi use case likely will)

    * If lucky, by 2018/early 2019 we’ll have SAE lvl-4 in closed-campus environments or similar geo-fenced and/or limited use case driving modes (prototypes already happening now ie Easy Mile, Auro and (non-lvl 4) nuTonomy). If VERY LUCKY we might have pilot projects of SAE lvl-4 in other geo-fenced driving modes (highway, low speed traffic-jam on highway, etc) by that time. Looking at folks like Otto here, because their customers can afford higher package costs and ROI is comparatively high.
    Note: all above references SAE autonomy levels.

    I hope I’m wrong and things progress quicker šŸ™‚
    Thoughts?

    Like

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