Magna International Inc, a Canadian automotive supplier, said it has developed a new platform called Max4, which is claimed to grant vehicles self-driving capabilities without compromising the car’s style.
According to the Ontario-based company, the platform can enable up to level 4 autonomous driving capabilities to cars cruising in urban and highway environments. Based on SAE International’s criteria, autonomous vehicles at level 4 are those that can perform all safety-critical functions for the duration of the trip within a specific operational domain without any intervention from the driver, except the destination or navigation input. Most of self-driving vehicles found on the road nowadays are at level 1 or 2, which means these vehicles require active monitoring by the driver.
Max4 utilizes and combines camera functions, radar, lidar, and ultrasonic sensors with a computer platform. This can be integrated with platforms (including hybrid and electric vehicles) to be created in the future by different automakers.
Magna’s chief technology officer, Swamy Kotagiri, said that all the mentioned enablers “are either fully or nearly production ready.”
The platform was earlier introduced in a test drive using a modified Jeep Grand Cherokee. Magna showcased Max4’s level 3 self-driving capabilities through the test drive that cruised almost 500 kilometers, and crossed an international border between Ontario and Michigan two times. The Cherokee drove autonomously for 92 percent of the trip.
Tom Toma, who is the company’s global product manager for automated driving, said that Magna is “evolving.” Along with this, he also stated that the company is “becoming more of a software company” to some extent.
According to Magna’s chief executive officer Don Walker, the company is fully onboard with the level 4 self-driving technology in spite of it being years away from public reach.
“Magna plans to stay in line and in lockstep with latest and greatest technology, and by doing so, we can offer our OEM customers any level of driving functionality they are seeking,” Walker said.
Moreover, Magna emphasized that it has leveraged its automaking expertise in designing Max4 in order to overcome traditional obstacles related to developing and producing self-driving platforms.
To do that, Magna said that the integration of Max4 will not alter any automaker’s existing design and styling for the vehicle. This includes not taking up space in the rear of the car, along with the space in the main compartment. The Canadian company also wants to squash the qualms relating to user experience, so it created Max4 in a way that is similar or close to the normal cruise control interface and implementation. This, in other words, simplifies the driver’s engagement, which basically means that drivers can enable or disable the system with a simple press on a button, or, alternatively, stepping on the brake pedal.
“At the heart of this development is a desire to show the market Magna’s breadth of capabilities and an autonomous driving enabling platform with subsystems that do not compromise the interior and exterior of a vehicle,” Kotagiri said. She added that the company’s focus is “on developing production-ready solutions that offer flexibility to integrate and the framework to enable level 4 technology for when the market is ready.”
Magna is one of several major car technology suppliers competing to profit from helping auto manufacturers develop automated driving features for future cars, along with Delphi Automotive, Continental, Siemens, Robert Bosch, and Denso. Many suppliers are joining the race into self-driving technology, and are attempting to rival tech giants such as Alphabet’s Waymo, Intel, and China’s Baidu.
Magna is set to conduct a demonstration of its Max4 system at the upcoming 2017 International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Germany.
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