Electrification is the auto industry’s main focus in 2020, and developing autonomous technology is generally considered less of a priority than bringing electric models to the market, but some of the sector’s brightest minds are still teaching cars how to drive themselves. Mobileye demonstrated what its technology is capable of by letting one of its autonomous prototypes loose on the streets of Munich and capturing every part of the ride on camera.
Reportedly unedited, the nearly hourlong video shows a Ford Mondeo-based prototype driving itself with a safety operator behind the wheel. By scanning the road ahead, and by analyzing highly accurate mapping data in real time, the sedan navigated many different scenarios, including urban environments and freeways. Germany’s Autobahn network of highways is sometimes unrestricted, but Mobileye’s testing permit forbids it from exceeding 80 mph.
Whether you’re a human or a robot, driving in Europe tends to be more challenging than driving in the United States because many of the bigger cities — including Munich — were built well before cars entered the landscape. Roads tend to be narrower and more fast-paced, and roundabouts are a lot more common than on our side of the pond.
What’s even more impressive is that the prototype arrived in Munich just a few days before the video was shot. Mobileye explained that it put together a map of the city using crowdsourced data provided by the regular production vehicles that drive in and around Munich on a daily basis, and it then fed this information to the car’s brain, which used it to drive itself. That’s how it knew when it would encounter a bend, a roundabout, a traffic light, or a freeway onramp.
Mobileye has no plans to jump into the car manufacturing sector, but it explained that the camera-based technology showcased in the video will be the central component of an upcoming Level 4 system, though it will be assisted by an armada of radars and lidar sensors to ensure the car detects every potential hazard. Some of these components will also power Mobileye’s SuperVision technology, a hands-free suite of driving aids scheduled to reach production in 2021. China’s Geely, an industry giant that notably owns Volvo, will be one of the first brands to deploy it.