- Ford engineers have been falling asleep at the wheel of ‘Level 3’ automated cars
- Cars are self-driving but could require humans to take wheel in as few as 10 seconds
- Ford no longer be producing ‘Level 3’ cars, will debut fully automated car in 2021
- BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi among those planning to release ‘Level 3’ cars
Ford engineers have been falling asleep at the wheel of self-driving cars, company research has found.
Testers who have been assessing Level 3, or ‘conditional’ autonomy cars, are prone to falling asleep even if another person is in the car or stimuli such as buzzers and vibrating seats are used.
Product development chief Raj Nair told Bloomberg: ‘These are trained engineers who are there to observe what’s happening. But it’s human nature that you start trusting the vehicle more and more and that you don’t need to be paying attention.’
Ford has therefore decided not to introduce Level 3 cars and will only produce level 5, or ‘full autonomy’ cars, expected to debut in 2021.
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Ford engineers who have been assessing Level 3, or ‘conditional’ autonomy cars, are prone to falling asleep even if another person is in the car or stimuli such as buzzers and vibrating seats are used. Pictured: Self-driving cars from Uber tested in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Ford has therefore decided not to introduce Level 3 cars and will only produce level 5, or ‘full autonomy’ cars, expected to debut in 2021. The spectrum shown above reflects Levels 0 to 5, with 0 reflecting a regular human-operated car and 5 reflecting a fully automated system
The Waymo car project spearheaded by Google parent company Alphabet reached a similar conclusion and will not be releasing these hybrid human/self-driving cars.
Waymo’s CEO John Krafcik told Bloomberg: ‘Level 3 may turn out to be a myth.’
A spectrum for cars from levels 0 to 5 ranks Level 3 as giving the car autonomy but requiring a driver to take the wheel within as little 10 seconds if necessary.
The car monitors the driving environment but the human acts as the fallback.
Level 0 reflects a regular human-operated car while Level 5 reflects a fully automated system.
BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen Audi plan to debut ‘Level 3’ vehicles as early as 2018.
An Audi model would require a driver to step in in 10 seconds, while models from Nissan and Honda would require 30 seconds.
Ford’s Level 3 models used monitors to determine a driver’s focus – which has raised the question of whether a a hybrid human/self-driving car, in actuality being neither, is worth it.
Ford CEO Mark Fields posed a hypothetical question to Bloomberg: ‘Why did I spend that extra premium for this if I have to be alert and pay attention?’
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