The 5-6 phases for autonomous mobility

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Kai Gondlach

In this short post I would like to fill the phases / levels of autonomous mobility with a little more life. If you read this, you have certainly already encountered diagrams such as the following, which shows the five phases (sometimes six, incl. of the “zeros”) for autonomous driving:


Let’s bring more grip into these cool phase descriptions. If you want to jump to a later stage, just go to:
Phase 1 | Phase 2 | Phase 3 | Phase 4 | Phase 5 | (Intermediate) Conclusion

Phase 0: No automation

Phase 0 is what you probably learned in driving school. Probably in a VW Golf, whose highest electrotechnical achievement was the cassette deck. The entire control was the responsibility of the driver. The gearbox had a maximum of four gears (plus reverse). They also cranked up heavily when parking, braking was an act of violence, approaching the mountain of horror. Driving was still a real job!. You may even have to put a seatbelt around because it simply didn’t exist – the installation of such belts has only been in place since 1974. The entire design of the car was based on firstly giving the owner a sense of freedom, independence and, secondly, not breaking apart while driving.

Phase 1: Driving assistance systems

In phase 1 towards automation, the first supporting functions came into the standard equipment. These included servo steering, brake boosters, ABS systems, which made it possible to control the car even when braking in hazardous situations, driving dynamics controls for stabilising driving dynamics such as ESP and ASR, which have been mandatory for new cars since 2014. Are. The bottom line is all minor optimizations, which mainly reduced the required energy expenditure of the driver. The exterior design hadn’t changed, the interior suddenly had a little more buttons in the cockpit – and maybe a CD player.

Phase 2: Partial Automation

You may be familiar with this phase if you usually travel with mid-range vehicles, because vehicles of this stage of development are most common in 2018. According to ABS, ESP, power steering, etc. when buying a car, they are standard equipment. Probably your vehicle has a cruise control that you can use to transfer control of the speed to the system. Presumably you are still self-switches without automatic transmissions (statistics from 2011). But you probably already benefit from the automatically dispersing rear-view mirror and high beam, you may have a start-stop automatic and maybe also a permanently integrated navigation and entertainment system. A few dozen sensors are already installed in your vehicle that analyze the environment and activate the windshield wiper that darkens the passive lighting in the interior when it gets dark outside, and adjusts the outside lights to the route. Just like the steering, which resists or at least vibrates when leaving the track without any flashing before. If you look tired, your vehicle will persuade you to take a break and initiate emergency braking when something appears in your journey – I hope you don’t know this feature from your own experience. But at least your car protests loudly if you have missed another vehicle in the blind spot. In addition, a growing proportion of passenger cars are connected to the Internet in order to integrate, among other things, current traffic messages into navigation or, conversely, to send operating data to manufacturers or emergency centres. Combined, all these functions lead to passages in which the feeling of automated driving can be simulated during a motorway journey for at least a few seconds. Cruise control and lane assistant and the automatic spacer work well until the system reminds you to put your hands back on the wheel.

Even in this evolutionary phase of the car, there are still no fundamental changes in exterior and interior design. Depending on the manufacturer, the design changes, because the outer shapes go from edgy to rounded, SUVs are indispensable from the cityscape and traffic accident statistics. The interior as a whole is more comfortable than ever, the fabrics are more noble, seats are more comfortable and even in small cars the legroom is greater. Some mid-range vehicles even allow the front seats to be reset to the balance (of course only possible if no one is seated at the back), some offer a massage function at an additional cost.

Phase 3: Conditional Automation

Under good weather and road conditions, autonomy is a decisive step forward in Phase 3. Especially in slow traffic, the first Level 3-capable vehicles are already faster than any human driver, as they leave the human attention second far behind. The on-board computer far exceeds the computing power of our common company PCs. He constantly calculates all possible entry scenarios in order to be able to react in fractions of a second in the actual event. Unfortunately, most of the media only report fatal or at least devastating accidents involving “autonomous” vehicles from Uber or Tesla, which statistically do not happen in practice (with all due respect for the victims!). There are also a long line of good examples, googling “autonomous car prevents crash” and convince yourself in case of doubt of the incredible performance of today’s systems. Be that as it may, the manuals of phase 3 vehicles and the permanent attention of the human driver are required purely in terms of regulation. In the USA, however, the legislation is now being adapted in anticipation (notification of 4.10.2018) to clear the way for self-driving cars. Ford, for example, has announced that it will skip Phase 3 altogether and enter the next phase.

Phase 4: High Automation

In this phase, for the first time, scenarios such as the following reality: the car asks where to go, you say the destination, put on the seatbelt – and off you go. The vehicle starts on its own, goes on the route and steers autonomously to the destination. It recognizes all traffic signs and observes the rules attached to them, accelerates appropriately and brakes independently when a vehicle driving is slower or stops. In uncertain situations, however, it will still notify you and require your intervention. However, it is now perfectly okay to sit back and read a book, work on the customer presentation for the appointment at the destination, or enjoy a meal in peace. However, the interior is still largely unchanged; two seats at the front, a seat at the back, possibly more interactive elements in the entertainment screen and perhaps here and there an on-board system with the most popular Netflix movies.

And at this point the inclined entrepreneur will think: Suddenly we can make completely new worlds of use possible! Yes, exactly! If the occupant, who is sitting near the still existing steering wheel, no longer has to use 100% of his attention to the road traffic and the control of the surrounding driving vehicle, it quickly becomes boring. The first concept vehicles in this segment already have swivel front seats and, for example, have a table in the middle where the occupants can play cards, eat or work together. Another obvious use case is to use autonomous delivery vehicles. Equipped in the warehouse or production site, they drive independently to the destination address and can be opened via customer interfaces. Sounds theoretical? The pizza delivery service Domino’s already does it today:

And in doing so, we are saying goodbye to our classic understanding of mobility. Goodbye, human drivers and thanks for the fish!

Phase 5: Complete Automation

This will be the completed phase of automation. Please say goodbye to the following parts of driving:

  • Steering wheel
  • Gas and brake pedals
  • Rear and side mirrors
  • Classic cockpit components (blinkers, windscreen wiper levers, tank display…) And more than that. Get used to the fact that the self-propelled capsules are suddenly possible in very different manifestations. Of course, there will continue to be smaller vehicles that carry one or more passengers as robo-taxis. In addition, there are larger vessels (traffic science for transport units) that transform applications into mobile business models:
  • The moving office has comfortable, productivity-enhancing seats and enough power outlets for your mobile office. Of course, a sufficiently large desk should not be missing, maybe even a flipchart / whiteboard / smartboard, if you are planning a productive session with colleagues. The minibar can be unlocked with an appropriate code. All windows contain LEDs that are transparent as needed, completely darken, show a presentation or any video. The worktop contains hologram technology to project 3D models into the room. This environment does not fit into an average mid-size car, but rather resembles a small multivan. In the trunk, of course, there is enough space for the luggage for the business passengers.
  • If you get into a moving hotel room and close the door behind you, you won’t be able to make any difference to today’s 4- or 5-star hotel room. You will find a small work place with chair, immediately see the comfortable bed with bedside table and a small bathroom. The use case suits the more than 180 million business trips in 2017 (source), especially those overnight and early in the morning: get in, fall asleep, arrive in the hotel dock and enjoy the continental breakfast before you go to the appointment in a relaxed way Can.

(Intermediate) Conclusion

By the way, business model ideas do not come up with futurologists, but entrepreneurs. We then ask the following questions:

What does the entry of self-driving vehicles mean for the aviation industry or for the hotel industry? What does it mean for the sale of vehicles, what for the insurance industry, which suddenly no longer serves end customers, but almost exclusively fleet operators, and suddenly also insure damage to or service defects due to hotel interiors?
What infrastructure and networking of devices does autonomous mobility require? Which antenna technologies are needed, which software and deep learning algorithms are used, why do distributed ledger technologies such as blockchain, tangle and hashgraph lead directly into an autonomous economy, in which machines soon carry the bulk of the financial transactions?
What other use cases for business models are available for other industries?
I hope this article offers you for the time being “food for thought”, lots of approaches for a transfer to your environment.

PS: If you want to travel to the pioneers of autonomous systems, you can of course travel to the west of the USA – so would most people. I find China more exciting. This medium article “Breakdown of self-driving car industry in China” deals with which companies are worth seeing.

Photo by Dominik Scythe on Unsplash

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