The car of the future

From connected cars to automated vehicles: a road for cross sector cooperation

Connectivity as a critical enabler for connected cars and autonomous driving

Smart driving and policy making

From connected cars to automated vehicles: a road for cross sector cooperation

By some estimates, over 600 million passenger cars are on the road today worldwide and increasingly they rely on connected technology to travel safely and efficiently.

There are many benefits to adding information technology to road vehicles. Networked and autonomous devices can make vehicles more efficient, safer (for both vehicle and pedestrians), more fuel efficient and environment-friendly, help reduce congestion and provide more comfort for passengers. In this pursuit, Connected Car and Automated Driving are two distinct avenues of development, with different business paths.

Connected Car is already a reality today: there are millions of connected cars and trucks globally, with several hundred thousand connected through Orange networks. These connections enable various services, from fleet management, to route information about nearby amenities - stops, restaurants or hotels - thanks to a combination of GPS tracking combined with Internet technologies.

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On the other hand, autonomous Driving is still very much in a stage of development, with trials taking place around the world. Yet, the success of automated cars hold a particularly central importance for European consumers as well as European businesses. Indeed the new technology will be beneficial for consumers, as it will help reduce car fatalities and enable a more centralized approach of traffic management. Its impacts on traffic planning and consequently, urban planning will also be significant, making it a topic of interest from public authorities. This interest is all the more acute that the automotive industry – a traditional provider of jobs through its vendors but also through its whole supply chain ecosystem -  is to be very affected by the technological progress related to the emergence of digital technologies and enhanced connectivity.

However, while it is important that the European industry succeeds in providing for automated cars, in practice further developments are subject to many hazards – some being self-evident - and depend on availability and performance of a wide range of technologies, from automotive to network technologies.So, full automation will not happen overnight and various technical features will deliver distinct levels of automation, from driving assistance to driverless driving.

As an illustration of the road to be covered, one can refer to the nomenclature proposed by the Verband der Automobilindustrie, which defined six levels of automation:

  • Level 0 offers no automated driving functions. Systems only issue warnings while the speed (cruising, accelerating, braking) and direction of the vehicle are controlled by drivers.
  • At Level 1, a system can assume control of either speed or direction of the vehicle, while the human driver continuously performs the other task.
  • Partial automation is recognized only at Level 2, as the driver can leave both speed and directional control to the system, in some situations. The driver continuously monitors the vehicle and traffic and must, at all times, be in a position to take over control of the vehicle immediately.
  • At Level 3 the system can independently recognise its limits, i.e. when its functions are no longer able to cope with environmental conditions. The vehicle then requests the driver to take over control when needed, even if he does not monitor the system at all times. The driver must resume driving, whenever signaled, within a defined delay period.
  • From Level 4 onwards, the driver can hand full driving authority to the system in specific instances, depending on to road characteristics, speed range and environment.
  • Level 5 refers to driverless driving. The vehicle can drive by itself, on all types of roads, speed ranges and conditions.

So far, nobody can say when this final level will be achieved. In particular, each stage of automation, will set some technical requirements on connectivity and communication between vehicles, their parts and its environment. The increasingly enhanced automation, will impose a new range of demands on connectivity and technologies, that may not be fully defined yet.  In the ultimate stage of full automation, safety considerations will be so critical that there will be very stringent constraints on communications, from coverage, seamlessness, to latency or stability.   

Because of all these levels of complexities and coordination, the process will only become operational gradually and is likely to take at least five to ten years. Yet, the priorities need to be set now.

Next part will provide more insights on the role of connectivity in the future of cars  (hyperlink to the next part).