Production cars could be driving themselves on motorways before the end of the year, according to a prediction by an expert in the development of vehicle assistance systems.
A statement released recently by advanced driver assistance systems provider Mobileye says the launch of a motorway version of autonomous drive is imminent. The statement follows an admission by Mobileye CEO Ziv Aviram that he regularly drives part of his 65km daily commute from home to office without touching the steering wheel of his Audi A7, leaving him free to check and respond to e-mails or watch news feeds. Aviram said on-board chips and software used to accomplish full autonomy was production -ready, but he would not disclose with which carmaker.
He predicted that three other manufacturers would introduce similar features to vehicles within the next two years, with a further nine preparing to follow.
The Mobileye system goes beyond Audi’s traffic jam assist technology launched earlier this year as a feature in the new Q7, a model that’s scheduled to go into showrooms in South Africa this month. Mobileye’s plans for bringing hands-free driving to market is in contrast to the approach taken by Google, whose hi-tech, ground-up line of attack is, according to reports, some years away from fruition.
Mobileye’s assisted driving technology applies algorithms to video images taken from a single camera to detect nearby vehicles, pedestrians, traffic signals or lane departures. The company won a silver certificate at this year’s Automechanika Johannesburg Innovation Awards for an aftermarket version that warns drivers of potential hazards or applies autonomous braking. The system forms the basis for the more advanced technologies that will be utilised in autonomous drive vehicles.
According to Aviram, most motor manufacturers will be able to produce driverless cars within six years, using Mobileye’s technology and other sensors that cost the equivalent of about R15000 to manufacture and install. He said he did not believe Google’s more expensive prototype could be considered a practical rival at this stage, pointing out that Mobileye is already turning a profit with its advanced driver assistance systems.
According to reports, revenue from the company’s driver-assistance technology is expected to grow by more than 50% this year. Aviram said that in about six years, most of Mobileye’s revenue was likely to come from semi autonomous and autonomous cars. “We believe that in 20 years, the world will be free of vehicle accidents. The pace will be according to what risk automakers are willing to take.”