Autonomous driving: the old world ahead

Zapping on Autonews BMW i Vision Dee (2023): the electric car of the future presented at CES in Las Vegas

As already written by Autonews, the Mercedes Benz Drive Pilot system is the first (and so far the only) approved in Europe for level 3. At the moment, it only applies ‘in Germany. And as the brand announced at CES in Las Vegas, the extension is imminent in the United States. The company with the star won authorization for Nevada and it won’t be long for California. A good blow in terms of com ‘, because these are two driving states in the USA for this type of driving. But, if it comes to this, Mercedes does not owe the opportunity. Its Drive Pilot system activates no less than 30 sensors and plays the redundancy card with cameras, radar and a lidar. Moreover, it uses HD navigation map provided by HERE. The German manufacturer, which also has level 4 authorization in Germany for an automatic valet parking service in a connected car park, has a history that no other brand can dispute. He started driving prototypes in autonomous mode in 1984 and already knew how to cross Europe without touching the wheel in 1995 with the S-Class. So winning level 3 these days is no surprise.

Other candidates seen for level 3

Apart from the fact that Honda also got level 3 clearance in Japan, many other brands are aiming for level 3.

BMW and Stellantis, which work together within the framework of the STLA Auto Drive platform, are also natural candidates (the latter announces 2024 while the former does not want to rush), as well as the Volkswagen group. Admittedly, one can always argue that the performance is less spectacular, as long as it is a question of driving on the motorway in traffic jams, up to a speed of 60 km/h and in lanes dedicated to this effect. That’s right, but level 3 will allow you to learn semi-autonomous driving in well-supervised conditions, before eventually reaching 130 km/h.

Despite advances in cameras and computing power, artificial intelligence has yet to live up to expectations. And you need to adjust many other parameters. By wanting to skip steps, and by overselling its Autopilot capabilities – which rely solely on artificial vision – Tesla took a risk. American authorities also do not appreciate that customers are being taken as guinea pigs to develop the supposedly more advanced system, FSD (Full Self-Driving). After the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), it is now the American stock market policeman – the SEC – that has opened a new investigation into Elon Musk, according to Bloomberg. He criticizes him for his inappropriate statements about the autonomous driving capabilities of his cars. The timing isn’t ideal for Tesla, which is currently facing a lawsuit and whose former engineer admitted (under oath) that a promotional video for Autopilot was fake in 2016.

Autopilot to the soft underbelly of the ranking

Generally quick to praise their builders, Americans are less brand-friendly.

So, the Consumer Reports site (which we can compare with our 60 million consumers) tested 12 autopilot systems on the market. Each has been tested 40 times, on the track and on the open roads of the state of Connecticut. It turns out that the systems deemed most successful are those from Ford (Blue Cruise, available on the Mustang Mach-E) and General Motors (Super Cruise), with Mercedes coming in third (though getting a best 10/10 capacity level rating).

We saw BMW, Toyota, Volkswagen (and Audi), then only seventh Tesla (with only 61 points out of 100)… and closely followed by the start-up Rivian which makes electric pick-ups and developed a system called Highway Assist. Last in the ranking are Nissan, Honda, Volvo and Hyundai.

To justify its rating, Consumer Reports points out that Tesla has not improved Autopilot since 2020 (it was second in the ranking), unlike the competition and it does not have an attention detection system. of the driver. An important point for this organization. But above all, the test clearly concludes that no one offers an autonomous car and no more Tesla than others.

Robot taxi: Tesla is not there

What is intriguing is that many people (including journalists) are convinced that the brand led by Elon Musk is very advanced in this area.

This is undoubtedly linked to the always very optimistic announcements of the eccentric CEO. However, Tesla is not fully in the race for robot taxis, for example, unlike Google (Waymo), General Motors (Cruise), Hyundai (Motional), or Amazon (Zoox). Old world manufacturers are very well defending themselves in terms of driving aids, such as a Volkswagen working with Bosch in Europe and horizon Robotics in China.

But beyond Tesla, the toughest competition will come from China with new brands whose models are highly equipped and full of artificial intelligence. And Chinese digital giants are also ready to build their connection and drive automation technologies out of the Middle Kingdom. We will tell you about it soon in Auto Moto magazine.

to summarize

Tesla fans were amazed: the Californian brand was grilled by Mercedes in the USA for level 3 and Autopilot was only 7th in a ranking managed by an American consumer organization. What’s happening ?

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