The 2023 ADAS & Autonomous Vehicle Technology Expo Conference opened today with a welcome address from Tony Robinson, who has been an observer of autonomous vehicles since 1993 and is the founder of ADAS & Autonomous Vehicle Technology Expo, Automotive Testing Expo and their associated magazines.
Tony revealed that autonomous vehicles have been a favorite subject of his for 30 years. In 1994 he attended the Prometheus event in Paris, where he witnessed a Mercedes S-Class driving fully autonomously around the Boulevard Périphérique. At that time, the car was packed with computers rather than the smaller, much more powerful and even handheld technologies used today.
He also attended the first autonomous highway demonstration in the USA, which took place in San Diego in 1997. At least 20 Buick LeSabres demonstrated platooning at 80km/h down a closed-off section of the freeway, which Tony described as “a fantastic demonstration of improving efficiency and safety”.
In 2017 he chaired a conference in Novi, Michigan, where he felt that car makers were far too bullish in their claims that they would achieve full autonomy within five years. He said he believes that people want full autonomy quickly but that this is not yet realistic. One of the things he would like to see is autonomous rental vehicles dropping passengers at airport curbs and then returning on their own to their rental depots. This, he believes, would save people a lot of time, with the added benefit of accustoming people to seeing cars moving around autonomously.
Tony said that Stuttgart Airport (next door to the expo venue) is in the early stages of developing an autonomous parking solution in one of its multilevel parking garages. Developed in cooperation with technology partners Mercedes and Bosch, the solution allows passengers to exit the vehicle with their baggage, after which it self-parks in a prebooked space. The system uses a camera- and radar-based system installed in the parking garage. Tony said that this is a great first step, and recommended that people take the time to go and see the system in action. He watched a live demonstration yesterday (June 12), during which the car entered the parking garage network – a controlled environment – and was taken away autonomously, guided by the many cameras within the infrastructure. He pointed out that as a Level 4 system, it is not fully self-driving. However, he believes that it ticks many of the AV boxes.
Tony also revealed one of his key missions, which began 15 years ago: a self-fueling, autonomous highway. Showing delegates a concept artwork from 15 years ago (created by UKi Media & Events art director Craig Marshall), he explained that the highway would use inductive charging, and revealed that he would love to see the use of solar panels and wind farms as well.
He compared this mission with HS2 – the largest infrastructure project in the UK – which he described as “the most ludicrous investment in Europe, a project based on a 150-year-old rail network, costing £200bn”. Believing that HS2 shouldn’t be a railway line, Tony said he plans to lobby government soon, and called upon others in the AV industry to join him.