A new innovation intends to give manufacturers control over when customers can drive with less focus.
Here Technologies, a location data and technology platform, quietly announced its new Automated Driving Zones at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this month. This brilliant piece of cloud-hosted software has the potential to revolutionize autonomous and semi-autonomous driving. It essentially allows automakers to decide when and under which conditions drivers are permitted to activate automated driving functions like Tesla Autopilot and Full Self-Driving.
Here correctly states that safety should come first when it comes to autonomous driving, which is why it must only be allowed to function when conditions are optimal. These optimal conditions will be defined by Operational Design Domains (ODD). According to Here, each manufacturer can set their own parameters.
Here also states that Automated Driving Zones will function across various levels of automation. For now, it starts at Level 2 and goes up to Level 4. Why not all the way to Level 5 Full Driving Automation? Because it does not exist yet, no matter how hard Tesla loyalists keep flogging that dead horse.
Allowing manufacturers to set the ODDs makes it a lot easier to control how these features are used and, crucially, can reduce the chances of an autonomous accident drastically. Here is currently busy developing, validating, and producing automated driving capabilities for two global automakers. Here did not mention these manufacturers, but we know its investors include Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, and Mitsubishi.
Why is this technology so important? Because it potentially solves the blame conundrum. To date, only Mercedes-Benz has officially stated that it would shoulder the blame in the event of an autonomous crash. Other automakers employ teams of advocates dedicated to this legal minefield.
A company like Mercedes-Benz can set the parameters, which could be simple or complex. You may be allowed to let go of the steering wheel on a freeway, but not in a school zone. Manufacturers could also potentially shut down some autonomous features in high accident zones or during heavy rainfall. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
Customers might view it differently, as they will be denied access to something they paid for.
“Here Automated Driving Zones is another example of the critical importance of accurate and dynamic location technology to enable safe autonomous driving,” said Giovanni Lanfranchi, Senior Vice President and Chief Product & Technology Officer at Here Technologies. “Location technology is both needed for defining the areas where automated driving is possible as well as for operating an automated vehicle safely within those boundaries.”