Level 4 autonomous trials to hit French motorways

Level 4 autonomous technology designed to allow drivers to take their minds off the road is to be tested in cars on French motorways later this year.

Level 4 autonomous

Carmaker Groupe PSA has announced a partnership with Hungarian automotive software developer AImotive, to test a pilot programme at highway cruising speeds of up to 130 kilometres per hour, on 300km dedicated motorway sections.

The project will test AI-based technologies including adaptive cruise control, fully automated lane changing, autonomous over-taking and collision avoidance, according to Adam Kotai, control engineer at AImotive.

“We are testing our recognition capabilities, so recognising things like other cars, people and road lanes, as well as our capabilities for controlling the car, such as lane keeping,” he said.

The partnership is designed to demonstrate the potential of AI technology for so-called Level 4 capabilities, or highly autonomous vehicles, capable of driving safely even if the driver chooses not to intervene. A Level 5 car, in contrast, does not require a driver at all, and so does not need to be fitted with a steering wheel or pedals.

The two companies completed the first phase of the project in May, when they installed the hardware and software in a Citroen C4 Picasso. In the second stage of the project, the companies will now test the technologies in both simulated and real-world environments.

Level 4 autonomous

The software is first tested using simulation software, said Lajos Nemeth, who is leading the project at AImotive.

“One of the key challenges we are facing is the validation of autonomous driving, and that is why our development approach is to validate everything first in our AI simulation product,” he said.

“The very same software will be tested in the simulator that will be used to control the car on the road.”

The AI algorithms are tested against thousands of realistic highway driving scenarios, including different weather, traffic and lighting conditions, and their response to these is then analysed by the company’s engineers to determine if any fixes are needed. Once the software reaches a certain maturity level, it is deemed ready be tested on public roads, said Nemeth.

Even then though, only the detection and recognition software will be tested first, to ensure that it is operating properly, before the control software is permitted to take over the car.

AImotive already has its own licences to conduct tests of its technology on roads in California, Finland, and Hungary. The technology developer has already begun trials at a proving ground in Hungary, and plans to begin testing in California soon.