SHIFTx 2021 explores huge potential of autonomous vehicles

What’s the potential of autonomous vehicles? How do we decarbonise transport? Do we still need our cars? Streamed worldwide on September 2nd and 3rd SHIFTx – a festival of ideas and a digital global platform – explored the mobility of the future from numerous perspectives.

One of the highlight speakers was Johann Jungwirth, VP of Mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) at Mobileye, who explored the potential of autonomous vehicles: “Self-driving vehicles will have a bigger impact on future mobility than the transformation to electric vehicles”, says Jungwirth. “94% of 1.35 million traffic deaths per year are caused by human drivers, and tens of million injuries, finally we have a solution in sight.” Another positive effect of self-driving vehicles is also crucial for Jungwirth: “About 800 billion hours are wasted per year behind the steering wheel, we can give this time back to people.

New self-driving robotaxi, powered by Mobileye Drive and ready for commercial deployment – launched this month in Germany. 

In the following interview, Jungwirth explains the potential of autonomous vehicles for the mobility of the future.

Self-driving vehicles will have a bigger impact on the future of mobility than the transformation to electric vehicles. Here are some of the reasons for the upcoming disruption of the automotive industry through AVs: 94% of 1.35 million traffic deaths per year are caused by human drivers, and tens of million injuries, finally we have a solution in sight.

About 800 billion hours are wasted per year behind the steering wheel, we can give this time back to people. And think about the user experience, anyone can get from A to B safely, conveniently door-to-door, without a driver’s license, without a steering wheel, even after a glass of wine. Not to forget all the services you can now put on wheels to even serve rural areas and new business models as well as a different value chain.

Over 25 global automakers are relying on Mobileye technology. Over 60 million vehicles are equipped with it worldwide. Some experts say, because you have a technological edge on the competition, what does Mobileye do differently than others? 

First of all, we want to say thanks to our automotive business customers, manufacturers and tier 1 suppliers, but also to our end consumers. We care a lot about the user experience and about the safety of these tens of millions of users of our technology.

On the technology side, we try to continuously reinvent ourselves and push computer vision to the next level from single camera-based solutions, to trifocal cameras to surround vision-based solutions we call Mobileye SuperVision, and now even the fusion of cameras, radars and lidars for full self-driving with Mobileye Drive.

On the automation side, we keep pushing the limits from Level 1 ADAS to Level 2 ADAS to hands-free ADAS, and now to Level 3 and even Level 4 fully autonomous driving solutions available starting next year. 

We see a lot of different systems and different takes on tackling the topic. In Germany, just recently, your former company, Daimler, and Bosch have ended their cooperation regarding autonomous driving, seemingly another setback for the development of AV in Germany. Why is it so hard to work together on that topic?

I have personally been working in this field of autonomous vehicles now for the past 10 years, and still remember well the Mercedes W140 research vehicles in the mid-nineties driving camera-based autonomously on German Autobahns.

It’s one thing to get a research vehicle on the road and do a few demos, and a whole different game to develop a safe full self-driving experience.

This requires the right people, perseverance and the right approach. Here is our unique trinity approach: #1 True Redundancy, we actually build two completely independent sub-systems in parallel, one based on computer vision, and one based on radars and lidars. #2 our ability to crowd-source and auto-generate our AV Maps, with millions of vehicles driving with our ADAS systems on roads today and #3, our responsibility-sensitive safety approach, a formal modal for safety.

When do you think will we overcome all technological and regulatory obstacles and have autonomous vehicles up and running for everybody?

You touch on a very important topic, which is scalability to offer solutions to everyone everywhere. Everything we at Mobileye and Intel do actually paves the way to scalable AVs, both through fleet-based robotaxis, shuttles and transporters, as well as through consumer AVs.

We see next year as the starting point for driverless fleet-based mobility-as-a-service solutions, in the first few cities. Therefore 2022 to 2025 the main focus will be on mobility on demand solutions. If you live in the right places you will be able to hail such vehicles or get on a shuttle for the first or last mile.

In about 3 to 4 years we see the next S-curve of consumer-grade full self-driving vehicles beginning, then you can decide if you want to drive or be driven in your personal vehicle, and the steering wheel should become an option.

For over 20 years, you were with Daimler and later VW. When you look at Germany now from abroad, what do you personally miss most about Germany, and what is missing in Germany at the moment for moving faster toward the future?  

First of all, I was very fortunate with the ability to already spend about half of my time with these great companies abroad, mainly in the US for about 11 years, in Chicago, New York City and mostly in Silicon Valley.

What I miss most about Germany is the high quality and maintenance of the road infrastructure, and of course the Autobahn. And I am very satisfied that Germany actually did in fact enact as first country in the world an AV law this year, through the regular process with parliament and senate approval.

Now technology and automotive companies have no more excuses, it is up to us now in close collaboration to use this legislative and regulatory framework to execute, and bring new mobility solutions based on self-driving vehicles to market and scale fast starting next year, to reduce the social costs of driving as quickly as possible.

Read also: Mobility meets tech: a new take on the future at SHIFTx

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