Top tier 1 automotive industry supplier Magna has introduced a new functional autonomous driving platform concept it’s showing off to automaker customers, which it says can work with any vehicle without impact to either car design or looks, and which can add scalable self-driving capabilities all the way up to SAE Level 4 (highly automated self-driving, which does not require human driver intervention).
The self-driving MAX4 platform introduced by Magna, which it debuted to media earlier this week in a modified Jeep Grand Cherokee, uses input from cameras, radar, ultrasonic and LiDAR sensors, along with on-board computing capabilities to offer an upgradable system that Magna says uses only a fraction of the power required by similar, existing solutions.
“The platform consists of multiple enabler subsystems, such as radars, LiDARs, cameras, compute platform, etc.,” explained Magna CTO Swamy Kotagiri, regarding how viable this is in terms of market-readiness. “All of these enablers are either fully or nearly production ready.”
Magna’s MAX4 also addresses a number of other issues that have been difficult in terms of adapting supplier platforms to existing vehicles, including making sure that cargo space in the back and room provided to passengers aren’t encroached upon. Magna also thought about user experience, and tried to hew close to existing Cruise Control implementations and interfaces, so that you enable it with a button-press and can disable it the same way, or by applying the brake pedal manually.
This is a natural progression for Magna, which has been building out its self-driving capabilities in a bid to help address demand from its automaker OEM clients. Most recently, Magna used Level 3 self-driving test vehicles to conduct the first North American border crossing, during a drive that covered 300 miles in total across the U.S. and Canada, and during which the vehicle drove itself during 92 percent of the trip.
The self-driving MAX4 is able to navigate both urban and highway, and Magna is now focused on getting it ready for production at scale and in significant volume. The final step for full autonomy, however, will rest with OEMs, who will take the base that the self-driving MAX4 offers and complete the picture through implementation, according to Kotagiri.
So How do autonomous vehicles work? Magna’s new MAX4 self-driving platform offers autonomy up to Level 4
Various self-driving technologies have been developed by Google, Uber, Magna MAX4, Tesla, Nissan, and other major automakers, researchers, and technology companies.
While design details vary, most self-driving systems create and maintain an internal map of their surroundings, based on a wide array of sensors, like radar. Uber’s self-driving prototypes use sixty-four laser beams, along with other sensors, to construct their internal map; Google’s prototypes have, at various stages, used lasers, radar, high-powered cameras, and sonar.
Software then processes those inputs, plots a path, and sends instructions to the vehicle’s “actuators,” which control acceleration, braking, and steering. Hard-coded rules, obstacle avoidance algorithms, predictive modeling, and “smart” object discrimination (ie, knowing the difference between a bicycle and a motorcycle) help the software follow traffic rules and navigate obstacles.
Partially-autonomous vehicles may require a human driver to intervene if the system encounters uncertainty; fully-autonomous vehicles may not even offer a steering wheel.
Self-driving cars can be further distinguished as being “connected” or not, indicating whether they can communicate with other vehicles and/or infrastructure, such as next generation traffic lights. Most prototypes do not currently have this capability.