Industry insiders believe 2020 is the year to witness autonomous driving come true. Competition of the smart driving sector is getting fierce as chip makers, automakers, parts suppliers and technology companies are racing to stand out in the field. Yet the development of automated technologies also encounters such challenges as mass production, cost cut, policy, public acceptance and technological breakthrough, etc.
Mass production plans by automaker
Mass production of intelligent vehicles is the core of smart mobility development, and the time is pressing given the targets automakers set.
The majority of automakers plan to launch Level 3-5 autonomous vehicles in 2020-2025, among which General Motors and Renault-Nissan are more aggressive, aiming to bring Level 3 autonomous vehicle to the mass in 2018. As a result, both of them were active in the sector last year.
General Motors acquired autonomous driving start-up Cruise Automation and LiDAR maker Strobe, and it invested in another start-up Nauto. In addition, GM built a production line for automated Bolt, which enables GM to outscore its counterparts in Navigant’s leaderboard.
In Feb., 2017, Renault-Nissan reached cooperation with Transdev, a French-based transport provider, to form self-driving vehicles fleet for public transport and mobility service. On 16th Sept. 2017, Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi unveiled the Alliance 2022, a six-year plan which aims to develop and research advanced self-driving system, connected vehicles and emerging mobility services. All in all, the competition for autonomous driving will become increasingly fierce. In 2018, Renault-Nissan expects to mass-produce its L3 intelligent vehicle.
Different routes towards self-driving
(1) Technical routes: AI-oriented VS V2X-oriented
AI-oriented self-driving mode is getting wide recognition on account of rapid development of AI technology. Aiming at the very vehicle, this mode utilizes AI technology and several sensors, featuring autonomous driving capability of a vehicle. Intel and NVIDIA are representatives.
Another mode aims at connected vehicles fleet, mainly developing V2X technology, with Qualcomm as representative.
Audi not only joins hands with NVIDIA to launch autonomous vehicle in 2020, but also cooperates with Qualcomm while the latter providing communication chips for its infotainment system in some models in 2017. Therefore, automakers need to take into account short-term and long-term interests.
(2) Gradual development, skipping, or both in parallel?
The routes for enterprises to develop autonomous driving are usually divided into three.
Some companies represented by conventional automakers (Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ford, etc.) develop autonomous driving gradually from level 3 autonomy to level 5, while some technology companies (Waymo, Uber, etc.) would skip level 3 to develop level 4&5 by using costly sensors.
Another route is between the two, combining assistant driving and autonomous driving in some specific scenarios. For example, Baidu first set up a division for developing level 3 autonomy, and then another for level 4. The two were merged in March, 2017.
Whichever, it is worthy of attempt only if it can accelerate the achievement of fully self-driving. In a long run, the various modes will parallel, and are complementary with each other.