Autonomous cars: driving without hands allowed in France but extremely framed, driverless cars – the press

Driver -free cars

Let’s start with a reminder. There are different scales of the autonomy system for cars.

Autonomous cars: driving “without hands” authorized in France but extremely framed

It is a small revolution but which should for the moment have very limited implications. From Thursday it will be possible to drive certain autonomous cars without your hands. So much for theory because in practice no device is approved in France for the moment.

This is a first step towards the development of autonomous cars. The regulations change from September 1. He will now be allowed to drive certain autonomous levels of level three without the hands. It is a major evolution but not a revolution because for the moment no device is approved in France. But the manufacturers should quickly move.

That changes the decree which comes into force on September 1 ?

Let’s start with a reminder. There are different scales of the autonomy system for cars.

– Level 0: There is no autonomy.
– Level 1: The car has aid, such as the cruise control.
– Level 2: tasks are automated, such as park, braking and keeping the track.
– Level 3: The car is semi-autonomous, can accelerate, brake and double, but the driver must remain attentive.
– Level 4: the attention of the driver is not required and does not need to concentrate, on certain roads, there is always a steering wheel and pedals
– Level 5: The car has no steering wheel or pedal, the attention of the driver is useless.

Until now only level 2 autonomous driving has been authorized in France. From now on cars with an automatic level 3 driving system are authorized on French roads. This means that we will be able to cross drivers who do not have hands on the steering wheel. But this scene will remain quite rare at least in the first months.

What cars are affected ?

No manufacturer has “level three” approval necessary in France. In Germany, a precursor country, Mercedes has ahead of Tesla this year, and received approval on its class S and EQS ranges, where the Drive Pilot system is offered as an option. These are two very expensive models, and these Mercedes are counted on the fingers of the hand. These models cost more than 100.000 euros, to which must be added up to 7.500 euros of option to obtain the autonomy system.

In France, it will still take a little time before semi-autonomous cars arrive en masse on our roads. As the Plus Auto Note , “The Mercedes system needs a complete and specific cartography, which contains a 3D scan of all the roads that cars in autonomous mode will bake”. Once this step has passed, the approval will then be necessary. Questioned by the newspaper Les Echos, the German manufacturer does not give a detail about a future date, the next step being rather the United States and China: “We have already initiated discussions with the French authorities, but we cannot give a calendar”.

What roads are affected ?

There are several conditions: it will be possible to drive an autonomous car on roads with separate routes (with central media for example), in good weather, where cyclists and pedestrians are prohibited. The maximum car speed will be limited to 60 km/h. To be clear, it will therefore be possible to drive without hands only on large roads like highways and peripheral boulevards when they are bottled.

Will the driver be able to take a nap ?

The nap at the wheel is prohibited: it will not be possible to look away, read the newspaper, watch a video, respond to emails, according to the automotive supplier Valeo. The driver must be reactive at any time if the car requests it, and must be able to intervene in less than ten seconds in the event of a glitch. The car can automatically make maneuvers, such as exceed, accelerate and brake.

Where the French manufacturers are ?

No French manufacturer offers a car with autonomous level 3 driving. The Stellantis group (which brings together Citroën, Peugeot, Fiat and Jeep) plans to launch its first level 3 driving system within two years, in partnership with the German BMW. BMW, Hyundai, Stellantis or Volkswagen have projects in the boxes, notes Les Echos. Note that the famous Tesla electric cars are considered level 2 cars, where it is forbidden to let go of the steering wheel. According to the American Road Safety Agency (NHTSA), Tesla are involved in 273 accidents in the United States.

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Driver -free cars

Every Sunday, the break team takes the time to explain a topical plot. This week, we are interested in the development of autonomous cars.

Alexandre Vigneault the press

A big blow in August ?

Tesla, a manufacturer of luxury electric cars, said that its vehicles could behave alone – in certain situations – from August. This announcement puts spice in the race by several large companies to develop an autonomous car. “If Tesla succeeds,” emphasizes Nicolas Saulnier, specialist in transport in Polytechnique Montréal, this manufacturer would become the first to sell to individuals cars capable of doing this. »»

What is an autonomous car ?

You could say that it is a car that drives itself, but in fact, it is a little more complicated than that. Nicolas Saulnier says that a truly autonomous car would only be based on any information than those collected by its sensors, which replace the driver’s eyes. “She perceives the environment and is able to make decisions in real time,” summarizes the professor. A hole in the roadway ? She bypasses him. An animal crosses the road ? She stops.

Capable of what ?

There are already cars capable of parking on their own or adjusting their speed on the highway. These tools are not a real automatic management system, but rather driving aids. To better situate what is done and what companies are targeting, Nicolas Saulnier suggests taking a look at the scale of automation levels to which engineers in the automotive sector refer.

Direction, acceleration, braking: everything is based on the gestures made by the driver.

Driving assistance tools, such as ABS brakes, cruise control or parking assistance, will allow the driver to relax a little, even if he remains in control of the car.

The car computer system now controls the majority if not all aspects of driving. At level 3, we expect the driver to react when the automobile asks him. At level 4, the car manages on its own in certain driving modes.

The driver is no longer necessary, regardless of journeys and road conditions. The goal of GM and Waymo (Google) is to arrive at vehicles so autonomous that they will not even have a steering wheel !

All in the race !

All large manufacturers develop more or less autonomous cars. Nicolas Saulnier stresses that Nissan and Toyota focus on driving aid, without trying to reach the complete automation of their short -term vehicles, while GM aims for the launch, from next year, of a service Completely automated car carpooling. “The most advanced people right now are Waymo, the Google subsidiary,” said the engineer. As part of its road tests, Waymo already offers automated taxi service to families in the Phoenix region, Arizona.

Without driver and without danger ?

An automated Uber car killed a woman crossing the street last March as part of a road test, however supervised by a human being. Three fatal accidents also occurred while drivers used Tesla’s automatic piloting system. These fatal accidents do not, however, doubt Nicolas Saulnier: he is convinced that, at the end of the development process, these vehicles will be “safer” than those led by humans. “I work in road safety and I see the driverless vehicle as the only way to eliminate the problem of accidents, a public health problem that we are barely aware,” he said. We will not be able to eliminate this problem as long as there are human drivers: we will always make mistakes, we will always be distracted. »»

Those who defend the development of automated cars think, among other things, that they could make traffic more fluid and be very useful for public transport. The deployment of this type of vehicle is likely to have an impact on many people: if trucks, taxis and bus move alone, there will be no more work for those who are currently conducting them ..

Still great challenges

It is not tomorrow the day before that the majority of cars will conduct themselves on their own. Manufacturers indeed face a quantity of challenges, young and old. In addition to having to ensure that vehicles cannot be hacked and handled remotely to cause accidents, they must find solutions to even more concrete problems. Nicolas Saulnier raises one: what to do if the sensors are dirty ? Do you ask the driver to store on the side of the road to clean them ? he asks. This is only one question among others … “I tend to think that these technical challenges can be resolved with more tests and data,” he said however.

Sources: Wired, The New York Times, CNBC, Canadian Council of Motorized Transport Directors

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