Nissan Swerves, Volvo drives in a traffic jam, MobilEye cruises the highway

Three big automaker announcements — and not about V2V even though the ITS World Congress is going on this week.

First, Nissan, whose self-parking Leaf I just wrote about has also announced a steer-by-wire system and tests of a car that will swerve to avoid a sudden obstacle. Of course almost all cars have power steering, but in a steer-by-wire car there is no mechanical linkage by default from the steering wheel to the steering motors. This allows a wheel to have “software defined feel” and is good for eventual robocars. In such cars a fail-safe restores a mechanical link if the main system fails.

However, the swerving car, which is demonstrated avoiding a cardboard pedestrian which jumps out into the road, is a new level of technology for major car makers. (Braking for these obstacles has been done for a while.)

Not much later, Jerusalem company MobilEye announced they had converted an Audi A7 to self-drive using 5 of their cameras as well as radar. MobilEye makes the vision system found in a lot of different cars — their specialty is a dedicated chip for vision processing. This article, which is in Hebrew outlines the car, which cost 588K NIS to build.

Volvo, which uses MobilEye, announced today that their 2014 cars would feature a traffic jam assist. Several companies have announced traffic jam assist (which is a low speed lane-keeping plus ACC) but Volvo has put a firm date on it. Also new in Volvo’s system is doing more than following lane markers — it also swerves to follow the car in front of it, as long as that car stays in the lane.

Of course, this does leave open the question of what happens if 2 or more of these start following one another, but that’s some time in the future and they have time to work on it.

In other news, the NHTSA has announced a grant to a team at Virginia Tech to research safety standards for robocar user interfaces. They have in the past stated they think the handoff between manual and automatic is an important safety function they might regulate.

And yes, there is lots of V2V news from the ITS world congress, but my skepticism for most forms of V2V remains high.

Swerving

Brad,

The article implied it would *evaluate* the adjoining lane to determine if it would swerve.

I wonder what it considers. To me there are several special scenarios.

Does it decide to swerve based on how *many* people it see in either lane? Two people enter the lane in front, but there is only one person in the left lane.

Will it swerve into the left lane if the traffic is flowing *with* it. A side-swipe is better than hitting a person.

I'm betting that it will always just apply the brakes when it sees *anything* in the left lane, but then I know someone will sue, if the car makes the *wrong* decision.

Has the insurance industry made any comments about robocars? What do the states that allow them now say about this in their legislation?

Peace,
Randy

Swerving

Swerving is indeed complex because it risks generating another issue if you have inadequate models of what’s going on in the other lane. At to what the Nissan system does, I have no information.

Swerving

I didn't like how the steering wheel moved so rapidly, how is the driver to know to remove their hands. Seems like broken fingers / wrist could be an issue unless this is only used on an already autonomous car.

I work in insurance, although not auto insurance, and I suspect they will love robot cars if it reduces their claim payouts. Robot cars will create a virtuous cycle of ever lower claim payouts year after year as more come onto the road. Premiums will shrink as well but as long as they keep the premium curve above the claim payout curve it could result in a 20-30 year run of easy profits.

Insurance Companies

Theta,

So *now* is the time to buy stock in insurance companies?

Peace,
Randy

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