Autonomous cars on the roads this summer: revolution or disillusion?
Let go of the steering wheel, your car drives for you. From July 14, autonomous vehicles will be allowed to circulate in Europe. A decree amending the Vienna Convention on road traffic allows a driver to delegate driving to an autonomous system. A first! In France, the decree transposing the European standard indicates authorization before September 2022.
But for the time being, we are staying very far from science fiction films. This authorization is indeed limited to level 1 to 3 autonomous vehicles, on a scale up to 5. Level 1 is adaptive cruise control; the 5th is the fully autonomous vehicle, which no longer needs human intervention for travel. As for level 3, which could therefore appear on our roads, it allows the driver to delegate driving to the on-board technology, for a certain time and in very specific conditions. If the system finds that it can no longer handle driving, it returns commands to the driver, who must be able to take them back quickly. On one of the only approved empowerment systems – the Mercedes Drive Pilot – “the system requires the driver to get back behind the wheel in less than ten seconds, specifies Philippe Bonnifait, professor at the Compiègne University of Technology and director from the “heuristics and diagnosis of complex systems” research laboratory (Heudiasyc). Otherwise, the car goes into safety mode.” And stops.
So where will it finally be possible to come across cars driving by themselves? According to the decree, level 3 vehicles will be allowed only on roads with separate lanes, prohibited for pedestrians and cyclists and at a maximum speed of 60 kilometers per hour. In other words, driving can only be delegated to technology on the ring road or blocked highways. A consistent choice. “Most of the accidents recorded involve pedestrians, bicycles or oncoming cars,” explains Fawzi Nashashibi, director of the RITS project team at the National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology (Inria).
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