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Automated Driving – The New Frontier for Automotive Suppliers

Automated driving will soon become a reality. (Photo: iStock / xijian)

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Paul Schockmel
Paul Schockmel
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Paul Schockmel, one of the leading automotive industry experts and currently still CEO of CLEPA, the European Association of Automotive Suppliers, shares his vision for Automated Driving (AD).

In the European automotive value chain, Automotive Suppliers play an essential role by directly employing more than 5 million people and investing 18€ billion in Research and Development projects per year. CLEPA represents 116 prominent automotive suppliers that offer a range of business opportunities far beyond the supply of hardware. 

As cars and indeed commercial vehicles become part of the Internet of Things, a whole world of innovation and opportunity is opening up.

There are different views about when we will see AD become a reality. Some believe 2025 will see the first highly automated vehicles on the road while others are suggesting 2030 or beyond. However, I have seen that over the past 2 years the conversation has moved beyond the doubters, and that now it is accepted that AD will in fact become a reality.

Common terminology

For the development of both technical and regulatory aspects, a classification of those new automated systems with a sufficient level of detail is needed. CLEPA supports the OICA (International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers) proposal identifying the various levels of automated driving (see below), using the terminology in accordance with SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) (standard J3016). If harmonized worldwide, the definitions of the levels of automation create a common understanding for governmental institutions, regulatory bodies, OEMs, suppliers and other stakeholders.

The OICA levels of automated driving

Building blocks of AD are coming

From my perspective, the discussion about the date is only a distraction. AD is not only one technology. The automotive suppliers are already developing, and supplying new technologies that are some of the building blocks towards AD. Take for example; Advanced Emergency Braking. This technology which identifies obstacles and pedestrians, applies the brakes on the vehicle if the driver has failed to react to a possible accident. This technology is already available on many cars today as an option, and is a critical component for AD in the future. Other technologies which are mature and available already include Park Assist systems, Lane Departure Assistance, Digital Brake lights and more.

The recent passing of a European Legislation mandating the fitment of eCall, an emergency call in the event of an accident where the occupants have been disabled, opens up a new level of connectivity between vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure. This connectivity between vehicles and their surroundings is another building block on the way to AD.

I also believe that it is important to manage expectations with regard to AD. While we foresee widespread implementation of AD on highways and in cities, the roll out to rural roads and developing countries will follow later. Installing the necessary infrastructure and road markings on all secondary roads and in thinly populated areas will certainly take more time and investment. Nevertheless, the payback in reduced traffic accidents and congestion in the main corridors make a compelling case for a speedy implementation.

Automated vehicles will need solid communication standards. (Photo: iStock / khamlaksana)

Deep discussions are ongoing among the Telecom companies, and providers of other communications technologies. Together, and with the involvement of the regulators, they have to set the standards for how vehicles will communicate safely and rapidly with each other and with infrastructure. Today we are hopeful that the standards and regulations can keep pace with the speed of the technology development. One of the most delicate but critical issues today surrounds the access to data. Who owns what data? Who can have access to vehicle data? How to protect against the misuse of data, are all hotly debated topics?

Data privacy

We urgently need a decision on who can have access to vehicle data and how it may be used. After all, if a vehicle’s data such as its position, speed and direction are withheld, then certain technologies will not be able to work, and AD will not be fully operational. We believe in every motorist’s right to privacy, but a certain level of information sharing is critical in pursuit of the higher goals of road safety and green house gas reduction. Therefore, we encourage and support deeper debates by all stakeholders to reach agreement.

AD’s benefits for society

We see the main advantages of AD as threefold. First, by virtually eliminating human error, the biggest cause of road accidents, there is huge potential for a reduction of accidents, injuries and fatalities. Then there is the possibility of reducing congestion by guiding cars with real time information, away from the most congested areas. Finally, when drivers no longer have to give all their concentration to the task of driving, they will have the time and facility to work, read, write emails or communicate remotely and safely thereby making their car a centre of productivity as well as a mode of transport.

Automated driving will make road traffic safer. (Photo: iStock / supergenijalac)

It is because of these significant benefits to society, that we are committed to making AD a reality as soon as possible. Automotive suppliers are heavily invested in research and development activities related to AD. During 2015, we saw the first call for funded projects for AD organised by the European Commission under their Horizon 2020 programme. These projects will definitely help the research efforts of the suppliers and the vehicle manufacturers. However, there is a need for bigger projects that can prove technologies in cross border environments and we are hopeful that these can be realised in Europe.

The steps towards AD are advancing, and automotive suppliers are embracing the change and in some cases leading the evolution. This is definitely the most exciting time in the history of the automotive industry, and we are fortunate to be a part of it.

Are automotive suppliers taking the right measures to pave the way for driverless mobility? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

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Paul Schockmel
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