This pilot test was conducted on 23 November 2015. To that end, a few days beforehand, the DGT had to establish a framework for carrying out tests on vehicles with autonomous driving on open traffic routes.
A few months before, the French constructor had already carried a test with this same vehicle, driving the distance separating Paris and Bordeaux .
They are not the only ones working on autonomous vehicle systems. We remember the Google car and also Nissan with its Nissan Leaf Intelligent Driving which undertook tests in Tokyo Bay.
The system is based on getting the car to "see" its environment, controlling everything that happens 360º around it, and this is achieved with a variety of devices such as radars, scanners and video
cameras, navigation systems, GPS and sensors connected to a sophisticated central electronic system capable of processing all the information at high speed and ordering the manoeuvres to carry out.
Therefore all electronic components currently functioning in a vehicle: engine management, brakes, steering, gear changes, lighting and accessories become part of the central electronic system which, in these vehicles, occupies nearly the whole of the boot.
The builders assure the marketing of these systems will represent a low cost increase of the vehicles of about 20% or a maximum of 30% of the value of the conventional car.
The intention of the manufacturers is to deploy these autonomous systems in phases.
Phase I, already in operation for years. These include systems such as Cruise Control, assisted parking, ESP, automatic lighting, rain sensors, etc.
Phase II is the one we are discussing in this article which is planned to be marketed in 2018, an autonomous vehicle but for motorways and highways, with a driver to manage things when driving on roads where the system is not operating.
Phase III is planned for 2020, and this is an autonomous vehicle capable of carrying out lane changes and overtaking.
Phase IV is for driving in the city and/or second category roads. We forecast marketing for 2023.
And finally, Phase V, also known as “robot taxi” which dispenses with the driver.
All this progress seems like something out of a science fiction film but it is a reality with two very clear objectives: the first is to reduce traffic accidents by more than 80% (almost 90% are caused by human error) and the second is to improve pollutant emissions as the system carries out optimal driving without excess acceleration, sudden braking or excess speed.
If we add, to all this technology, parking search and road traffic density control applications, then it’s not unreasonable to think that it will not be very many years before we have “robot” vehicles with full autonomy.