Sensor failure a looming risk for AVs, ANE Congress panelists warn


Automakers and suppliers are looking into a potential problem that could affect passenger cars equipped with autonomous driving technology, industry experts told viewers during the latest Automotive News Europe Congress Conversations.

“The question that worries us the most is how do the sensors and components work after they have been on the road for two to three years,” Karl Obermaier, director of future mobility at certification service provider TÜV Rheinland, said during a panel discussion on the future of autonomous vehicles (AVs).

“How do they react to temperature, to salt or water, and all of these things? Degradation of these systems is a major topic with regard to functional safety of autonomous vehicles,” Obermaier added. “Many automakers, Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers are realizing this is a big, big problem coming.”

To view the entire discussion, click here.

Sufficiently guaranteeing the safety of commercial automated systems has proved complicated. It took three years between the launch of the first Level 3 capable vehicle, the Audi A8, and the subsequent type approval for its eyes-off, self-driving system.

Automakers and suppliers know they will be held liable for Level 3 system failures in privately owned vehicles outside of their control.

By comparison, fleets of Level 4 robotaxis, which will be too expensive for most consumers to purchase, are likely to be under constant surveillance and supervision, with system diagnostics occurring at frequent intervals to better predict potential failures.

Reliability, durability and degradation of sensors were key issues for Level 3 cars, said panelist Mircea Gradu, who is senior vice president of product and quality at sensor supplier Velodyne Lidar.

“When you have a fleet operation for Level 4 and Level 5, certainly the maintenance schedule and the overall ability to inspect the system and correct any potential issues is different from selling to a consumer,” he said.

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