Earlier this January, residents in Phoenix, Arizona could apply for Waymo’s Early Rider Program which allowed them to take taxi-like rides around the metro area in the company’s automated hybrid minivans – without a driver. Sooner than we thought, level 4 automated driverless vehicles are here.

The lower rung Level 2 autonomous driving tech currently drives amongst us. GM’s Cadillac Super Cruise, Nissan’s ProPilot, Tesla’s Autopilot, and Mercedes-Benz’s Distronic Plus are a few among others which that can be seen on the streets today.

In the same breath, the first commercially available Level 3 vehicles, as we know, which can take full control under constant driver supervision, is expected to be featured in the upcoming 2019 Audi A8. However, its Traffic Jam Pilot system is yet to be approved by the concerned authorities.

Back in 2012, Google built a Level 3 vehicle for testing by its employees. “After looking at the data from onboard cameras, they stopped the program,” says the former chief of Research and Development at General Motors, Larry Burns says. “People were falling asleep, eating, reading—they were doing things that made it impossible to re-engage the driver. That’s why Waymo is aiming to take the driver out of the loop entirely.” (It’s a development some Arizonans aren’t particularly happy with.)

Source: YouGov

How Far Is The Mass Production Of Level 4 and Level 5 Vehicles?

Even restricted to certain areas and conditions, Level 4 autonomous vehicles will get us where we want to be. Hence a burning question that begs to be answered is that if we really need Level 5 self-driving cars. “I think we’ll reach the tipping point,” Burns says, “when it’s clear that the value of the system exceeds its price. I think we’re in a five-year window where that could happen. But I don’t think Level 5 is ever gonna happen. I don’t think it has to happen. Level 4 vehicles, even restricted to certain areas and conditions will get us where we want to be. Do we really want a Level 5 vehicle driving in a snowstorm on Colorado’s Loveland Pass at night? I don’t think any vehicle should be doing that.”

Could Completely Autonomous Vehicle Be The Future Of Transportation?

Most of the autonomous development projects that are undertaken by major automakers are first to be deployed in their own ride-hailing cars. In his book titled, Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car, Burns suggests how CAVs also offer the promise of dramatically reducing transportation costs.

“Today, cars cost about $1.50 per mile to operate, including depreciation, fuel, financing, parking, and human time,” Burns says. “I think we’re going to see a future where that drops to 25 cents a mile or less. Your payment will only be how much time you had the vehicle, and how many miles.”

24 percent of the people who were surveyed trusted self driving cars enough to sleep. Source: YouGov.com

Future of CAVs in the Middle East

In January this year, the Dubai RTA issued test guidelines for autonomous vehicles. The guidelines, as we were told, are a part of RTA’s aim to transform 25 per cent of city journeys into self-driving trips by 2030. This aims to attract manufacturers to invest in researches and trials to help transform Dubai into a regional hub for autonomous vehicles.

In keeping with the guidelines, RTA issues permit to companies to carry out trials within controlled environments to curb the number of potential risks. In addition to this, it also lays out a clear methodology for testing these vehicles against international standards.

There are four stages of testing self-driving vehicles:

Phase I: Compliance and test. This verifies the eligibility of manufacturers to take part in tests under specific criteria.

Phase II: Tests within Geo-fenced Areas. The aim is to ensure the safety of vehicles for passengers and road users, and the fitness of vehicles for driving on Dubai roads.

Phase III: Assessment through Simulators. This phase aims to study the overall impact on the road network.

Phase IV: Trials on specific parts of Dubai roads network witnessing moderate traffic movement. The aim is to test trial vehicles with other vehicles while keeping the safety of other road users in mind.