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Over Promised, Under Delivered?

2020. Three short years from now. So close that we can imagine being there, yet distant enough for major changes to occur. In some circles, 2020 is the year there will be an unprecedented automotive advancement—the debut of self-driving vehicles that flawlessly chauffer us around. We’ve heard this narrative over and over in countless news articles, conference speeches, and public announcements. However, is it actually feasible? The answer is maybe… but likely not quite how it is predicted.

When you think about the autonomous vehicle ecosystem—consisting of automakers, technology providers, lawmakers, standards providers, infrastructure developers and last, but not least, drivers—there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of hurdles to overcome before these vehicles can hit the road in any form. Removing control of the vehicle from a human driver turns our current system of transport on its head.

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Who's Behind the Wheel of Autonomous Vehicle Development?

The car of the future, one that features advanced self-driving technologies and the capability to “communicate” with its surroundings is eventually coming to a driveway near you. While we may be physically taking our hands off the wheel, who is ensuring its safe for us to do so?

In the past year, we’ve seen a shift in how automakers innovate—switching from iterative designs to rapid development cycles to bring autonomous vehicles to market sooner, with many predicting by 2020 (although there is an ongoing debate about those dates within SAE committees). We’re seeing OEMs partner with traditional and nontraditional tech suppliers to re-create the automotive industry’s innovation model. As automakers are racing to get ahead and be first to market, important questions of safety and reliability appear to be overlooked.

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Mobility Tech ‘Growing Pains’

Like countless other technological advancements, the vehicle of the future holds great promise for the world in which we live. The use of autonomous and connected technologies is predicted to revolutionize mobility by reducing vehicle crashes, decreasing energy consumption, lessening pollution, and curbing costs associated with traffic and parking congestion. It also will provide direct personal benefit through increased independence for people with limited driving abilities. Among many other trends related to transportation of the future, WCX will explore the myriad possibilities surrounding autonomous and connected vehicles in tailored education sessions, the Connect2Car Program, and the Connected Communities Pavilion in the exhibit hall.

There has been a fundamental change ramping up in the automotive world, which has led to increased collaboration with outside partners in the information technology, electronics, and infrastructure industries. There’s also an issue of speed.

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Letting Go of the Wheel—Can Humans Do It?

Letting go of the wheel—it’s a daring and foreign concept for even the most trusting individual. The idea of hopping into a vehicle, inputting a destination, and letting the vehicle lead the way without any intervention seems straight out of a sci-fi movie, yet numerous automakers and technology developers are showcasing autonomous and connected car systems that prove it is possible. Through its forward-thinking offering of education and new-product exploration, WCX takes attendees into the future to explore these possibilities.

The technology in question will eventually be here, developing more day to day, but will humans be ready to make the transition?

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Positive Consequences: The Impact of the Automated Vehicle

Day by day, the buzz surrounding autonomous vehicle technologies is growing. Once a topic reserved for automotive industry conferences and publications, the trend to develop partial and fully automated vehicles has taken hold of high-profile trade shows like CES, is referenced by mainstream media daily, is being addressed by federal and state government agencies though rulemaking and has become a main talking point in current event conversations. On April 10-12, 2018, it will also be a main focus of WCX—highlighted in a tailored education track in the show’s Tech Hub, showcased in the Smart Transportation and Connected Communities pavilions, and the very foundation of the Connect2Car program.

More often than not, the conversation surrounding autonomous vehicles revolves around their development, with the debate centering on whether they are practical and possible with today’s available technologies, especially with OEMs and suppliers touting that they’re coming sooner than later. Many have announced on the record that we’ll be driving autonomous vehicles by 2020—and many of these will be in attendance at WCX, sharing their ideas and the possibilities for the future.

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Patience Is a Virtue

There comes a time when the facts must be faced, and in the case of autonomous vehicles, the time is now. From industry conferences to mainstream media, various automakers, suppliers and industry analysts have suggested that fully autonomous vehicles will be on the road for consumer use by 2020. At SAE International, the consensus is different, so we’ll break the news as sensitively as possible.

We disagree with the notion that 2020 is possible, even under the most ideal circumstances.

Contrary to popular perception, autonomous vehicles are far more complex than slapping cameras and additional sensors on a vehicle and expecting it to drive itself. And that’s the trouble of bridging the gap between today’s driver assist features and a truly automated vehicle. According to SAE’s J3016TM Levels of Automation (recently adopted by NHTSA for categorizing a vehicle’s autonomous driving capability), a “Level 5” vehicle is the only type of vehicle that is truly automated without the need for human intervention.

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