Do we need to skip Level 3 Vehicle Automation?
Now finally happened what the whole automotive industry was afraid of: a fatal accident with an autonomous vehicle.
Well, it was not really an autonomous vehicle but a Level 3 partly automated car.
Level 3 means, that the driver has to be in permanent control of the vehicle, even in autonomous drive mode, and has to be able at any time to take back control.
But the question is: How realistic is it to believe that drivers will stay attentive in automated driving mode?
Some years ago, when first vehicles were equipped with cruise control some drivers confused this with vehicle automation. In this case, a driver of a motor home switched on his cruise control and walked to the back to cook a coffee. He was very astonished that the car was not steering itself when it finally crashed.
So, how much do people who ride in partly automated vehicles understand technical limits and/or are willing to accept them? And how realistic is it to believe that during automated driving mode drivers will stay attentive to traffic situations?
For sure damage with traffic jam assist at 40 km/h or less will be less severe than with highway assist with up to 210 km/h. Even if further details of the accident have not yet been revealed following a Tesla blog technology has apparently arrived at its limits in this specific situation.
What would be the right measures to take now for the automotive industry? Limit speed for automated driving to 110 km/h or 130 km/h? Integrate for highway assist a kind of geofencing allowing vehicles to drive autonomously only when GPS has recognized that vehicles are on highways? Supervise driver with cameras or other sensors to make sure that he still is in control – but why do you need then automated driving?
Skip Level 3 automation and only allow vehicles with Level 5 automation maturity on roads?
For sure, a lot of questions have to be answered in the coming weeks permitting to make vehicles, already equipped with Level 3 automation, safer and drivers more aware of potential dangers.
But hopefully not to abandon a technology that should make our roads safer and give access to mobility to everybody.