Audi says they’ll hit Level 3 autonomy on the A8 by 2019

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Audi has unveiled the late 2017 update to the A8, the company’s largest saloon car, which will be the first car sold with a Level 3 autonomous system onboard.

In a press release, Audi claims that other vendors are selling Level 2 cars, which force drivers to remain focused on the road. The A8 differs in that respect, once drivers activate the self-driving system, they are allowed to take their eyes off the road.

See also: Audi and NVIDIA commit to driverlessness by 2020

The system will only work on highways when there is traffic, as Audi decides when the driver is allowed to press the button and the max speed is 60 kph (37 mph).

To get the driver back in control, Audi deploys a variety of noises, lights, and vibrations. Visual and audio cues are the first warning, followed by tightening the seatbelt and hitting the brakes. If that fails to draw the attention of the driver, the system will turn on flashers and stop.

A stepping stone to level 5

Audi wants the A8 to be a stepping stone towards full autonomy, which is still a long way off. Even with the compromises on speed, however, the A8 will not be allowed to drive on any roads in Germany, China or the United Kingdom at the present time.

Most countries are still against anything that allows the driver to take their attention off the road. Audi would need to receive approval for the car before selling it with the autonomous system, and even then it might be forced to add additional safety protocols.

The carmaker expects the system to be available in Germany by 2019 and has not given an estimate for other countries. By that time, some suspect, we will have driverless taxis and shuttles on the road, which might make the compromise system look a bit outdated.

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How AI and autonomy will usher in a new age for car insurance

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When an autonomous vehicle causes an accident – who is liable for the fault? Given the passengers are not in control of the vehicle, it would make sense for the autonomous system designer to be holding the liability. At a high-level, autonomous vehicles conceptually disrupt traditional insurance.

Tesla looking to bundle insurance with new vehicle purchases seems to suggest this is the path auto insurance is going. However, even without control of a vehicle, the passengers in the vehicle still have one large influence over a potential accident happening – they control when the vehicle is driving.

Even with the perfect driving system, variables such as weather or maintenance condition can cause an increased chance of and accidents Once connected vehicle technology gets to the point where increased risk situations can be forecasted based on geography, should the passengers start having liability due to increased risk?

Paying a premium on risk
Auto insurance is currently based on the perceived risk of the driver. Auto insurance has already taken steps to change a person’s premiums based on their risk tolerance. Progressive Auto Insurance has their Snapshot which monitors driving habits and awards a reduction in premiums based on the results . Likewise, someone who has a history of unsafe driving will be charged an insurance premium due to their increased risk of future accidents. But both these situations are based on static statistical models. What if algorithms could be designed to determine when and how long someone will be exposed to the increased risk? This would allow insurance companies to offer new products that are adaptive to their current situations rather than being purely based off of past behaviour.

Your car doesn’t have snow tires, so…

Bad weather, poor maintenance, improper tires, anomalous traffic events, etc. all create risk increases while on the road. All these situation are predictable given the right data being dynamically analyzed. Given technology developments, it is not crazy to think this data will be collected in the near future and these predictions will be made.

The insurance industry could take advantage of this with the creation of an insurance product that uses these risk predictions to determine if passengers are willing to take the increase risk exposure.

When an autonomous vehicle determines its current route will encounter a high-risk scenario, it could give its passengers or passengers-to-be three options. First, to take a different route even though it may be longer. The second would be to put the trip on hold until the risk clears. The final one would be for the passengers to pay an insurance premium for the trip to reflect the increased risks. In the ride-sharing industry, any premium could simply be built into the pre-trip fare quote making it similar to how surge pricing currently works.

Machine learning will allow insurance companies to change how they create products for connected and autonomous vehicles and in turn lower the insurance costs for everyday vehicle use.

VB Profiles Connected Cars Landscape

VB Profiles Connected Cars Landscape

This article is part of our connected cars series. You can download a high-resolution version of the landscape featuring 250 companies here.

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BMW self-drives to Level 5 autonomy by 2021?

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German automaker BMW is confident it can field a car capable of Level 5 autonomy capabilities by 2021, the launch date for its first fully autonomous vehicle.

Elmar Frickenstein, the senior vice president of autonomous driving at BMW, said as much during an automotive panel in Berlin. He also said that the car would have different levels of autonomy, depending on where and how the car was being used.

See Also: German automaker BMW is confident it can field a car capable of Level 5 autonomy capabilities by 2021

BMW would fit the car with Level 5, 4, and 3 autonomy capabilities. We aren’t entirely sure what that means, as the only downside to Level 4 autonomy is the system is unable to function in certain environments, unlike Level 5, which is full autonomy across all environments.

Level 3 is much easier to achieve, as it only provides autonomous driving capabilities in certain zones and at certain speeds. A system could be categorized as Level 3 if it was able to drive on most roads in a sunny day without assistance.

Some automakers are planning to skip Level 3 autonomy, as it poses risky questions like ‘who is at fault if the car crashes’ and, as shown by a Ford study, it can lead to drivers falling asleep at the wheel and not being able to take over when needed.

BMW has not shown its progress as publicly as Google, Tesla, and General Motors, but its partnership with Intel and recently acquired Mobileye shows it is building a consortium to help with the development of the autonomous vehicle.

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