What is autonomous systems?

I have always been interested in new technologies and once decided to become an engineer since innovation is the lifeblood of business. After my engineering degree, I developed an interest for future mobility solutions and accomplished a Master of Logistics & Transportation.

Pointing out the obvious, technology is the sum of techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation. Transportation could be described as the movement of humans, animals and goods from one location to another.

Innovation and transportation will always a huge impact on the world and “innovate or die” is a mantra that many follows. However, transformation isn’t easy or cheap, and many startups have learned that this is particularly true for developing autonomous systems and self-driving vehicles.  

So, what is autonomous systems?

Let’s start by defining an autonomous vehicle, which also could be known as a driver-less car, robot car, self-driving car or autonomous vehicle. Automated vehicle means a motor vehicle designed and constructed to move autonomously for certain periods of time without continuous driver supervision but in respect of which driver intervention is still expected or required.

According to SAE’s automation level definitions range from Level 0 to Level 5.

Level 0: The automated system issues warnings and may momentarily intervene but has no sustained vehicle control.

Level 1 (“hands on”): The driver and the automated system share control of the vehicle. Examples are systems where the driver controls steering and the automated system controls engine power to maintain a set speed (Cruise Control) or engine and brake power to maintain and vary speed (Adaptive Cruise Control or ACC); and Parking Assistance, where steering is automated while speed is under manual control. The driver must be ready to retake full control at any time. Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA) Type II is a further example of Level 1 self-driving. The Automatic Emergency Braking feature which alerts the driver to a crash and deploys full braking capacity is also a Level 1 feature.

Level 2 (“hands off”): The automated system takes full control of the vehicle: accelerating, braking, and steering. The driver must monitor the driving and be prepared to intervene immediately at any time if the automated system fails to respond properly. The shorthand “hands off” is not meant to be taken literally – contact between hand and wheel is often mandatory during SAE 2 driving, to confirm that the driver is ready to intervene.

Level 3 (“eyes off”): The driver can safely turn their attention away from the driving tasks, e.g. the driver can text or watch a movie. The vehicle will handle situations that call for an immediate response, like emergency braking. The driver must still be prepared to intervene within some limited time, specified by the manufacturer, when called upon by the vehicle to do so.

Level 4 (“mind off”): As level 3, but no driver attention is ever required for safety, e.g. the driver may safely go to sleep or leave the driver’s seat. Self-driving is supported only in limited spatial areas (geofenced) or under special circumstances. Outside of these areas or circumstances, the vehicle must be able to safely abort the trip, e.g. park the car, if the driver does not retake control. An example would be a robotic taxi or a robotic delivery service that only covers selected locations in a specific area.

Level 5 (“steering wheel optional”): No human intervention is required at all. An example would be a robotic taxi that works an all roads all over the world, all year around, in all weather conditions.

To go from “hands on” to “mind off” autonomous vehicles need further development of autonomous systems. It include the vehicle navigation system, the location system, the electronic map, the map matching, the global path planning, the environment perception, the laser perception, the radar perception, the visual perception, the vehicle control, the perception of vehicle speed and direction, and the vehicle control method.

Autonomous systems are a highly competitive market and have attracted the recent attention of some of the biggest and fastest-growing companies in the world.

Autonomous systems are machines and systems that can perform a series of operations where the sequence is determined by the outcome of the previous operation or by reference to external circumstances that are monitored and measured within the system itself.

Some perceive that autonomous systems only equate to robotics and automation, but the technology includes so much more. By broadening the definition of the industry, we can enhance the uptake and development of such systems in many industries and communities.

Advantages of autonomous systems are their ability to go into places and situations where humans cannot. This includes dangerous places, such inspecting inside nuclear reactors to check for faults, and inaccessible places, such as going inside a mine.

Filip Rosander – Head of Automotive – A Society Group

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