LeddarTech is back from Movin’On 2018, where our President and Chief Operating Officer, Frantz Saintellemy, had the privilege to participate in a panel discussion on the future of autonomous driving.
This panel, which took place in the Cabaret Thales venue, reunited global experts in various sectors of the autonomous driving space to discuss the need for life-saving autonomous technology advances, along with the various levels of safety regulation, certification and standardization needed to improve consumer acceptance, facilitate technology adoption and accelerate commercialization in the marketplace.
The experts, who are actively working on the development of solutions for autonomous driving, included analyst and event moderator Roger Lanctot―Director of Automotive Connected Mobility at Strategy Analytics, Pamela Milligan—Vice President of Strategy & Organization at TomTom, RJ Scaringe—Founder and CEO at Rivian, and LeddarTech’s own Frantz Saintellemy, who has over 21 years of experience in the electronics and automotive sector.
The common consensus among the panel experts is that ADAS and various levels of autonomous driving technology are necessary to reduce motor vehicle fatality rates—both now and in the future. In the United States alone, car accidents account for over 100 fatalities per day (over 40,000 per year), with the fatality rate rising to several million worldwide. And with human error being the leading cause of traffic accidents, it is estimated that the elimination of distractions such as texting could reduce up to four million of the 11-million crashes that occur annually.
Although such findings make a great case for technological innovation capable of mitigating human error, self-driving vehicle technology still needs to be stabilized before machines can replace humans at the wheel. For that to happen, the panelists all agreed on the need to develop a regulatory environment conducive to improving the performance of autonomous systems and making them safer for consumers.
Although loose regulation initially served as a technology enabler, Rivian’s RJ Scaringe likened the self-certification scenario prevalent in today’s lax regulatory environment as the Wild, Wild West. He also stated that the pendulum would probably be swinging wildly in the opposite direction over the next few years as more stringent regulation comes into play, with different countries and states even using regulation to compete for technology development.
Pamela Milligan agreed, adding that local regulatory approvals and frameworks are needed to enable experts such as TomTom to test their technologies in different conditions and environments. However, she also made a case for even greater standardization at some point, stating “…if level 5 is drive anything, anywhere, we need to have some global influence and regulations.”
Although Frantz agreed that regulatory considerations are important, he stressed the need for more transparency and data sharing, stating that these key issues would be critical to building consumer confidence and accelerating technology adoption. As part of this push, he emphasized the need for the industry to disclose discrepancies, especially given that transportation and safety regulatory boards are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Frantz also argued that competing players such as Google, Uber and Waymo should share forensics and other data to compare how often their respective software fails, and to determine to how many miles driven and how much data are needed to make autonomous vehicles safe for public roads.
Frantz also made a case for greater collaboration and standardization between competing technology players in the autonomous space. For example, he suggested that competing mapping firms should be working together to standardize the technology, thus ensuring that their various mapping solutions function seamlessly with autopilot and artificial intelligence (AI) software, with no need to employ specialized algorithms from one vendor to another. He also pointed out that the automotive industry had been built on centuries of collaboration, with car manufacturers routinely sharing technology. When it was mentioned that the conversation around transparency and standardization tends to make certain players nervous, Frantz responded that the new players would have to evolve: “This is not the F1 race…platform partnerships and ecosystem partnerships have to happen so that market shifts can happen.”
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