Will Autonomous Vehicle Makers Get Back into Gear in 2022?

Like many manufacturers, autonomous vehicle (AV) developers have struggled through a 2021 rocked by semiconductor shortages, global supply chain disruptions, eroding customer confidence, and other challenges.

As 2022 approaches, the biggest challenges to the audio and vehicle industry will continue to be a disrupted supply chain, chip shortages, and a skeptical public. Autonomous vehicles rely on artificial intelligence technology in the form of graphics processing units (GPUs) to handle deep learning and machine learning tasks. “These chips are evolving with Qualcomm’s SnapDragon being a big one and NVIDIA in space also with the TX2/Jetson models,” says Chris Matman, CTIO at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “With a supply chain crisis involving chip manufacturing, having these and many more chips per vehicle is more important in the autonomous car industry than it is in the consumer sector.”

Building confidence

As 2022 approaches, many vehicle manufacturers hope to build trust with lawmakers and increasingly skeptical consumers. Phil Koopman, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has worked in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Robotics Institute, believes that Tesla’s use of vehicle owners as “beta testers” is reckless and harmful to the image of the fully autonomous car industry. ‘Misery because [drivers] They run stop signs, operate red traffic lights, and veer through center lines on public roads,” he explains. “Tesla uses civilian drivers who are not specially trained in safety testing and do not operate in accordance with best practices for road safety testing.”

Coopman says the stance taken by the entire audio-visual vehicle industry “to respond forcefully against any requirement to follow safety standards” is further eroding public trust. He notes that manufacturers face a choice in 2022 and beyond. “They can continue to take a hostile approach with regulators and have a problem when a major meltdown forces regulators to step in, or they can take a collaborative approach now while they still have time.”

An excellent first step, Koopman says, is for AV developers to voluntarily agree to follow the SAE J3018 standard for safe road tests. “The industry itself wrote this standard based on lessons learned from the Uber ATG test death in Tempe, Arizona, but not a single vehicle company publicly pledges to follow this standard.”

Driving to Level 5

The biggest challenge facing car manufacturers and their technology partners is developing models that can deliver a truly autonomous driving experience. In the audio-visual vehicle industry, complete autonomy is referred to as Level 5 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). “At Level 5, there is no human intervention required and the vehicle is fully capable of driving itself,” says Matt Desmond, principal auto industry analyst at business consultancy Capgemini Americas.

None of the vehicles marketed for sale in the next few years will have a Level 5 ADAS. “Providing a truly autonomous vehicle—without a steering wheel, accelerator, or brakes—is a huge technological and safety challenge, and there are many significant hurdles to achieving fully autonomous solutions,” Desmond says. Meanwhile, major automakers and technology companies are investing huge sums in developing, testing and improving AV systems in an effort to alleviate technical issues and provide a strong technical foundation, he notes.

As it currently stands, ADAS Level 5 vehicles may not reach the market for at least several years. “The reality is that the core technologies of ADAS need to mature to a point where virtually any scenario can be identified and safely handled by the standalone software,” Desmond explains. He points out that car manufacturers and technology providers have already driven robotic vehicles for thousands of hours to train the onboard software to learn different driving environments. “However, there is still a lot of work to be done, particularly in stormy weather scenarios, such as snow, mud, sand or rain, which can interfere with the sensors.”

Several major issues must be resolved before ADAS Level 5 vehicles can become a mainstream transportation technology. Besides addressing the underlying technical challenges posed by code complexity, network latency, and hardware vulnerabilities, many market and legal issues must be resolved. “On the whole, industry, business ecosystems, law, politics and culture have a long way to go to provide solutions for mass market deployment of autonomous vehicles,” Desmond says.

In a sense, Desmond says, AV developers face a “chicken and egg” scenario, since many potential ADAS challenges cannot be fully examined and resolved until AVs are on the market. “With actual production dates for autonomous vehicles announced, we believe we’ll see real momentum to solve these issues from the auto and technology companies developing ADAS products, the insurance industry, and federal, state and local regulatory agencies.”


Note Raj Rajkumar, professor in Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and co-director of GM-Carnegie Mellon’s Information Technology Collaborative Research Laboratory. “The end point of complete autonomy will not be an overnight revolution, but the final stop on an evolutionary path of progress with many milestones,” he says.

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