In automated vehicles, at least one of the safety-critical functions such as throttle, braking or steering occurs without any direct driver input. These automated vehicles could become autonomous vehicles (AV) by using only vehicle sensors or by connecting via communications systems to communicate with vehicles and roadside infrastructure using wireless networks. The underlying need of connectivity is important to maximize the benefits and wider automated vehicles implementation. The SAE table below shows the different levels of automated vehicles.
Of course, the safety benefits of AV are critically important. Analysis shows that about 94 % of serious crashes occur due to human error, and this is predicted to reduce due to the deployment of automated vehicles. The human error aspects can be eliminated from the crash scenarios through AV. This obviously will help drivers, occupants, pedestrians, regulators, insurers and urban/ non-urban traffic. One of the NHTSA study showed that about $ 900 bn is lost due to motor vehicle crashes, lost workplace productivity, loss of life and decreased quality of life due to injuries. Possibly eliminating these vehicle crashes could erase these costs through AV.
AV on roads could possibly, enable smooth traffic flow and reduce traffic congestion. Globally, a study shows that commuters spend an estimated 18.4 bn hours in traffic delays, which denies their time at work or with family, increases fuel costs and certainly worsens vehicle emissions. With AV, this time and money spent commuting could be better utilised. In addition, the AV could also provide new mobility options to millions of commuters that are older, others that are physically challenged and to those that work while traveling that seek complete privacy. Worldwide, employment or independent living is dependent on the mobility outreach. AV could provide that necessary outreach to those needy.
For AV to succeed, Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) technologies are necessary to capture vehicle-generated traffic data, such as advisories from the infra to vehicle that communicate the driver of safety, mobility, or environment-related conditions. Further, Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) actions are necessary to develop safety, mobility, and environmental applications that report transportation needs as well as providing interoperability and coexistence with other vehicles.
Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) can sense the environment and communicate that information to other vehicles, to and from infra over personal devices. This is key for AV communication since it enables safety, mobility, and environmental advancements that current technologies are unable to provide. The V2P approach encompasses a broad set of users including pedestrians, people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices, commuters embarking and disembarking public transportation, and 2W/ 3W passengers.
Another interesting building block of AV is the aspect of Human Factors Research. The US DOT and EU have established several research studies around this aspect. They focus on understanding, evaluating, planning for, and counteracting the effects of signals or system-generated messages that take the driver’s eyes off the road (visual distraction), the driver’s mind off the driving task (cognitive distraction), and the driver’s hands off the steering wheel (manual distraction).
AV in their initial growth phase may appear daunting as there are unsolved questions, complexities and situations that need resolution. Nevertheless, the deployment can lean on existing vehicle systems since they have been a way of mobility life for several decades.
Connected & Automated Vehicles are supposedly slated to transform our lifestyles, roads, communities, and persona. To deploy these vehicles there must be several supporting aspects encompassing technical, institutional, skillsets and financial challenges, through participation of stakeholders. The reality is that many of these challenges can only be comprehended and resolved by deploying them in real-world situations in tandem.