Date:6Minutes ago Source：autochina.comnews.cn Authour：He Lun
——Auto Market Hotspots Q&A (131)
The new-generation Audi A8, which is about to have its World Premiere in Barcelona, Spain on July 11th, is certain to be hot topic in the auto industry. This is not just because it is Audi’s new-generation flagship model, but also because it is the first mass-produced Level 3 autonomous car in the world. Following on from this model, Mercedes Benz, BMW and Tesla will also launch Level 3 autonomous cars in the next two or three years, meaning that the automobile world is about to enter the Level 3 autonomous driving era. Is China ready for this?
Q: What is Level 3 autonomous driving？
A: To put it simply, in a Level 3 autonomous driving environment, you don’t have to use your hands or feet or keep your eyes on the driving tasks unless the system calls upon you to intervene. Currently, the autonomous cars running on the roads are of Level 2 at best. This means that during autonomous driving you can relax your hands and feet to some extent, but you must monitor the surrounding conditions so that you can intervene with your hands and feet when necessary.
Q: But most car users in China haven’t had the chance to try Level 2 autonomous driving. Will it be too soon for them to skip directly to Level 3?
A: I’m afraid that won’t happen very soon - in China I mean. Last year, I took 4 Level 2 autonomous cars for a test drive and found them equally troublesome: if you set your autonomous following distance too high, cars in other lanes will keep cutting in and those behind you will honk the horn and flash their lights at you as if you were a rookie. Some will even overtake you and deliberately cut in in front of you. But even if you set the following distance to the minimum, it still won’t stop cars in other lanes from cutting in. What was worst was that these Level-2 autonomous cars did not react to this unpleasant driving behavior at all, with the result that you have to slam on your brakes. And suddenly, you felt you were no longer driving an autonomous car. So if you want to experience this Level-2 autonomous driving, you have to be prepared for anything.
Not long ago, a senior executive of a German multinational carmaker told me that when he first got a Level 2 autonomous car in China, he was very excited, but that when he hit the road, he found himself much more tired than if he had been driving on his own, so he shut down the autonomous car following function altogether.
Q: How does Level 2 autonomous driving feel in other countries?
A: I don’t have all the relevant data, but I do have some personal experience. Last September, I took the Mercedes Benz GL for a test drive in Germany, which has the same Level 2 autonomous driving function as the domestically-produced Mercedes car. I drove it for over 170km on highways and country roads, and experienced total relaxation and enjoyment. The reason is simple – no one there drives a car in the reckless manner of the Chinese.
Q: Autonomous driving involves “behavior prediction” technology. So does it mean that multinational carmakers haven’t done enough in localizing their behavior prediction?
A: Yes, you could say so. But on the other hand, should we simply tolerate or accommodate ourselves to the unruly, rude, random and malicious driving habits of the Chinese? BMW cautiously and discreetly describes them as “aggressive driving habits” or “diverse driving behavior”, indicating that BMW has already made a careful study of these bad habits. But how much time, effort and cost would it take a carmaker to make a complete study all of these bad habits and develop technologies to predict them all?
Q: Another question – how interested are the Chinese in autonomous driving?
A: It’s rather ironic. According to BMW’s survey, there are many more Chinese who would pay for autonomous driving than Germans and Americans, but on the other hand, due to their bad driving, Chinese are currently the group of customers who are the farthest from enjoying the benefits of autonomous driving.
There are many obstacles to autonomous driving, and among them, bad driving can be said to be one of the sworn enemies (the only other one is the hacker), but at the same time, it is something that can be progressively eliminated. The closer we get towards courteous driving, the closer we are to autonomous driving.
As a matter of fact, quite apart from the question of autonomous driving, Chinese are rapidly becoming fed up with all sorts of bad driving habits. Recently, the Geely Emgrand GL launched a public benefit activity called “Red Eyeshade Initiative”, calling for people to drive without using mobile phones, which is a good start. Of course, the most essential measure to put a stop to these bad driving habits is to establish and enforce the relevant regulations. Now the Internet and big data can also work as effective means to monitor driving behavior and investigate violations. Reports say that Shanghai is already taking action to this end.