With Rapid Development in Autonomous Driving, How Far Away is it Really?

December 24 19:54 2020

Since its inception, autonomous driving has been favored by capital and technological entrepreneurs. In the context of new infrastructure and the maturity of 5G technology, the popularity of autonomous driving is projected to go higher. The epidemic in 2020 does not seem to affect the development of autonomous driving. Since the beginning of the year, autonomous driving technology companies emerge one after another, with a financing value of tens of billions of RMB.

Not only is capital enthusiastic about autonomous driving, national policies are also becoming favorable for it. For example, Ministry of Transport of China regarded autonomous driving as one of the core technological projects in the years to come. Technological innovation in autonomous driving would always be given high emphasis. To accelerate the construction of a powerful transportation country, advanced autonomous driving technology is essential. Therefore, principles such as encouraging exploration, tolerating failure, ensuring safety, and opposing monopoly will be adhered to in order to actively promote the research and development of autonomous driving technology.

In such a background, autonomous driving is booming day by day. On October 21, Chinese first normally operated 5G unmanned bus landed in Suzhou, Jiangsu. This unmanned bus runs on open urban roads, having a top speed of 50 km/h. Based on China Mobile’s 5G network and QCraft’s self-developed technology, this unmanned bus named “QCraft Unmanned Minibus” has basic functions such as pedestrian & vehicle avoidance, automatic lane change, automatic steering, and traffic light recognition. It can also deal with complex traffic conditions such as crossing intersections with a large number of pedestrians, coping with traffic jams, etc. Prior to this, Baidu and Didi also launched self-driving taxi services in Beijing and Shanghai respectively. As early as April this year, Changsha has fully opened up driverless taxi services.

In addition to the autonomous driving of these Internet giants, there are two top car manufacturers whose autonomous driving technology is worthy of our attention—Tesla and Human Horizons.

Recently, Tesla unveiled its latest autonomous driving system with great fanfare. Elon Musk announced on October 12th that Tesla would release a new autonomous driving software that would be tested on some Tesla all-electric cars. The aim was to test the cars’ ability of autonomous driving on busy city roads. However, there was a disclaimer appeared on Tesla’s official website later, declaring that cars fitted with this system—with a value of US$10,000—still require drivers to supervise it. In other words, fully autonomous driving is still not realized on Tesla.    

By contrast, Human Horizons appears much more practical. Its first all-electric model, HiPhi X. It is the world’s first Level 3 autonomous driving vehicle with dual redundancy. Redundancy is a term first used in aviation industry. For an aircraft autopilot system, redundancy means that all electronic control systems have a backup. Simply put, there are two systems. When one fails, the other replaces it in time to ensure safety. In the same way, a dual-redundant Level 3 autonomous vehicle can go safely with the support of the redundant system even if one set of systems fails. Moreover, the driver can take over the vehicle at any time if necessary.

Across the globe, autonomous driving has seen a prosperous development lately. However, we have to admit that there is still a long way to go before fully autonomous driving is implemented. It takes time overcome technical difficulties and gain public trust. But we have every reason to believe that as more players enter into the field of autonomous driving, breakthroughs in the technical problems are just around the corner, and autonomous driving will surely fit into people’s lives one day in the not so distant future.

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