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Self-driving vehicles: The future

As of 2019, the number of people who died in vehicle crashes was 36,096. Approximately 94% of fatal crashes are still because of human error. The NHTSA (National Traffic Safety Admin.) intends to alter this and autonomous vehicle form a major part of the solution. 

Let’s delve into some of the background to start with. The NHTSA indicates that are five eons with regards to safety. The timespan ranging from 1950-2000 witnessed the proliferation of safety and convenience features like cruise control, seat belts, and antilock brakes, whereas the timespan ranging from 2000-2010 witnessed the rise of more progressive features like electronic stability control, blind spot detection, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. From here, safety innovation in our vehicles really accelerated. The era ranging from 2010-2016 witnessed the proliferation of sophisticated driver assistance, combined with rear view video systems, and automated emergency brakes. 

We are currently in the 2016-2025 era, and we are going into the age of partially automated safety features. The features these include consist of lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assistance, and self-parking. NHTSA forecasts subsequent to this era, will witness the proliferation of completely automated safety features and highway autopilot. 

The prospective advantages of self-driving vehicles are obvious: roads with enhanced safety, economic and societal advantages, improved efficiency and convenience, and new mobility options. There is a long way to go before we get there.  

If we go by the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Automation Levels, we are presently looming around Level 3, conditional automation. How can we get to Level 5, total automation? We require a confluence of the appropriate regulations, cybersecurity, research, and a tad bit of simulating to move us forward towards this objective. Perhaps, the United States of America also requires to look at research being carried out in other nations to propel self-driving vehicles forward. 

Let’s observe one instance from Germany that is presently in progress to evaluate safety. In the joint SET Level project, PROSTEP is collaborating with nineteen partners from industry and education to develop a relevant simulation technology. In unison, the partners are working on a methodology that will enable vital traffic scenarios to be mapped electronically, therefore facilitating them to be simulated. 

This project adds on to the PEGASUS cooperative project, which was finished in May 2019 and concentrated mainly on the highway. SET Level that this to the next level by delving into flexible automation and networked driving features in urban regions. This project will go on until August 2022 and has a cumulative budget in excess of 30 million Euros and is obtaining funds from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. 

In a virtual event, the partners leveraged three simulated traffic situations to present the preliminary solutions. This is leveraging open standards and simulating tools, implying that after this project reaches its conclusion, it can be leveraged and developed by other organizations and research entities. The resulting outcome is minimizing the future expenditure related with approval of automated vehicles. 

Will we reach our objective of completely automated, self-driving vehicles by 2025? That’s a mere 4 years away. We are quickly moving in that direction, but there is still a long way to go. The idea is that after we get there our roadways will be just a little bit safer. 

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