The idea of not having a human driver but an intelligent machine to deal with chaotic traffic, and various impromptu situations on the roads is becoming more real now than in the last 90 years when the first experiment on automating cars was conducted in the 1920s. Research into autonomous driving began in earnest the same time that miniaturization of semiconductors took off. With each generation of CPUs becoming smaller and yet more powerful, the vision got more detailed. Each generation of vehicles produced has more electronics content than the previous generation. This has in fact paved the way for the future of electronically controlled vehicles. The introduction of MEMS sensors was the final piece of the technology hardware puzzle.

Sensors and processors will continue to evolve, becoming more intelligent and more connected. A decade from now, they will make ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) found in the high-end cars today look like child’s play. Yet, despite there being a consensus that autonomous driving is an unstoppable trend, how soon will it get to the fast lane remains debatable. In last few years, new technology investment in automotive has been nudged by regulatory requirement. Think of electrification and stop-start system which help to meet emission standards, or ADAS to meet new safety regulations.

ADAS Overview Infineon cr 1200px Figure 1: Overview of a typical Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS).

More recently however, the field of players has broadened significantly with the entry of prominent, non-automotive based technology companies and many more niche technology start-ups into the autonomous, network integrated mobility space. Is this a reaction to hype or is there potentially a disruption to the current business model?

Shared Autonomy Infineon cr Figure 2: The field of players has broadened significantly with the entry of prominent, non-automotive based technology companies.

The good news is based on today’s sentiment and design activities, automated vehicles will go into mass production as early as the next decade; driven by both regulatory requirement to unclog congestion and improve safety, as well as the promise of greater flexibility and convenience for drivers / passengers by mobility players who seek opportunities with new business models.

 
Next: Sensors replace senses »