Automated driving has been a big topic in recent years. In 2016, the Japanese government announced a plan to reduce yearly traffic accident fatalities below 2,500 people by 2020. This mandated installation of automatic braking in large vehicles to avoid collisions, inspiring development of automated driving technology. Currently, Aisin Seiki is focusing on developing Automated Valet Parking, one of its future technology pillars. What exactly is parking assistant technology, and how will it affect our cities in the near future? Professor Kenji Doi of Osaka University Graduate School is an expert on urban transportation planning, and Hiroshi Ishiguro is a developer of the Automated Valet Parking system at Aisin Seiki. They exchange opinions on the automated driving technology of the future and its effect on cities.
- Professor Kenji Doi
Transportation and Regional Planning Area, Division of Global Architecture, Graduate School of Engineering, Osaka University
Completed Doctoral Program at Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering, Nagoya University
Served as Assistant Professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology, then Professor at Kagawa University Faculty of Engineering, before assuming current position in October 2012
Specializes in urban transportation planning, mobility concepts, and urban design
- Hiroshi Ishiguro
Advanced Development Group, Chassis & Vehicle Safety System Engineering Department, Aisin Seiki Co., Ltd.
University: Graduated from Electronic Engineering Department, Faculty of Engineering
Joined Aisin as a mid-career hire in 2004. Was assigned to ITS Engineering Department and worked on Driver Monitoring System software development. Transferred to ITS and Chassis System Development Department (current: Chassis & Vehicle Safety System Engineering Department) in 2012. Responsible for advanced development of parking assistant system (current position).
First of all, we often hear the phrase “automated driving” these days, but what is the actual definition of automated driving? Mr. Ishiguro, could you start us off?
Automated driving refers to a system that performs the various driving operations that humans currently perform. The general population probably imagines setting a navigation system, leaving the house, and arriving at your destination, and then getting back home without having to do anything. But we haven’t reached that level in the real world yet.
ACC (adaptive cruise control), which automatically performs accelerating and braking, and lane keeping systems, which operate the steering wheel, have become quite common recently.
Those are classified as “driver assistance” systems. They’re on automated driving Level 2. Automated driving is currently defined with five levels, where Level 1 means that only one operation is automated. Auto-braking is an example of that. Adding acceleration and steering for a system that automatically performs multiple operations is Level 2. At Level 2, the responsibility is still with the driver. At Level 3, the system performs everything under normal conditions, including safety checks. However, no existing system works correctly 100% of the time, so control is returned to the driver in an emergency in Level 3. In Level 4, the system takes responsibility for all operations in a certain situation. This is what’s known as an automated driving system. However, use cases are currently limited, for example, to intervals between particular highway exits. Level 5 is the situation I just described, where driving is automated from the time you leave your house to when you arrive and park. But I’m not sure if this will be achieved within our lifetimes (laughs).
The new A8 announced by Audi recently gained buzz for containing the world’s first Level 3 automated driving technology. As an engineer, what do you think of this?
It seems that they have achieved Level 3 technology, but laws actually differ by country, so the extent it can be used in the real world needs to be verified. With Level 3, the manufacturer assumes responsibility for accidents. A manufacturer with the courage to take that responsibility might not yet exist in Japan – including us. In that sense, they are ahead of the curve.
So we need new legislation, not just technology, to fully achieve Level 3.
Aisin has Narrowed Focus to Developing Parking Assistant Technology
At Aisin, we’ve narrowed focus within the automated driving field to developing parking assistance and driver monitoring systems to support safe driving. As I mentioned, in Level 3 the system generally takes responsibility during automated driving, but returns control to the driver in an emergency. So we need technology to detect what state the driver is in at that moment – the direction they’re facing, their line of sight, whether their eyes are open, etc. At Aisin we call this the driver monitoring system. We created the first commercial version of this worldwide in 2006, and we are continuing technology development.
What do you do when the driver has fallen asleep or ill?
That’s exactly what we’re working on in R&D right now. In the near future, cars will include a feature that automatically evacuates to a safe location and stops when the driver is recognized as unable to drive.
That will be amazing.
Speaking of parking assistance, the new BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class have commercialized a system where cars can be parked remotely using a remote control key or smartphone from outside the car. The driver doesn’t need to be inside the car, so it’s easier to park in narrow spaces. What is the technological level of this?
It’s classified as Level 2 automated driving. There’s a difference whether the driver is inside or outside the car, but driving responsibility is still with the driver. Actually, we demonstrated a similar system at the 2013 ITS World Congress. It’s amazing that the German luxury car manufacturers have been able to resolve security issues and proceed to mass production. Our system is technologically sound, so I hope we can resolve mass production issues and include this in as many mass-market models as possible.