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Automated Driving 4 min read

Location forecast: the trends reshaping autonomous driving in 2024

Location Forecast 2024 Automated Driving

Autonomous vehicles aren't a common sight on our roads — yet. Could 2024 be the year that innovations in the sector help to rebuild public trust and move hands-free ahead?

The predictions made five or six years ago that we would all be getting around on autonomous robotaxis by now have not come to pass.

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) have been beset by obstacles, from regulatory headaches to robotaxi collisions.

Nevertheless, some notable high-end automakers have progressed to Level 3 of automated driving, meaning the vehicle can drive hands-free under certain conditions. We might not be getting there at high speed as once thought, but AVs are steadily moving forward.

HERE360 looks at some of the trends that should transform the industry in 2024.

A man sips coffee while using the automated driving features in his car.

Do the crab walk

A lot of focus on AVs has been on the interior of the vehicle. Without the need to keep our eyes on the road, the dashboard can be transformed into a screen offering information and entertainment. This has been described as turning cars into "smartphones on wheels.'" 

Analysts SBD Automotive went one step further at IAA Mobility when they dubbed the software-defined vehicle a "habitat on wheels." The car of the future will be so advanced, it will operate like a home-from-home.

However, the design of the hardware itself can also be altered to make movement easier and less, well, awkward.

Cars that can move sideways and perform difficult maneuvers such as parallel parking without human help are now a reality. The "crab walk" tech, which has been fitted to a Hyundai IONIQ 5, allows all four wheels to rotate 90 degrees together or separately.

It facilitates maneuvers that previously might have been considered very difficult without driver control, such as parallel parking, forward bay parking or escaping from a dead-end. It could be a game-changer for AVs that previously struggled with these moves. Perhaps 2024 will be the year that other vehicles follow suit — and we could expect to see some other interesting modifications, too.

A car travels through an intersection in an American city.

Living for the city

Some of the biggest success stories in the past few years for AVs have been with trucks on U.S. highways or shuttles and other smaller vehicles in controlled zones such as airports and university campuses. The next frontier? Our busy city streets.

The teething problems evident in regions such as California highlight the difficulty of making this happen. Far easier for an EV to get used to a predictable environment with few variables than urban locations with infinite distractions, obstacles and wildcards.

This is where the "behavioral layer" on an HD map becomes important. This data uses previous behaviors to bring the experience closer to what drivers typically do and are comfortable with. It is an important step toward getting the public to trust AVs and vital if we are to see their proliferation in urban areas.

AI, real-time maps and smart data

Learning on the job

This has been the year of AI, and we can expect that to have an influence on AVs in 2024, much as it is transforming every other sector. While AI is itself not new, the rollout of this technology on such a grand scale has been making waves.

Start-up Wayve recently launched its AI model Lingo-1. The vehicle uses AI and machine learning to improve as it goes along, much as a human driver would. According to founder Alex Kendall, this allows Wayve vehicles to adapt to changes in the environment in a way that AVs, until now, have not, making them more capable of avoiding collisions and becoming truly intelligent.

Another recent example that claims to replicate the way humans drive is the zpod. Billed as India's first AV, the little vehicle is built on AI created by start-up Minus Zero.

Following a year that has seen an explosion in all things AI, this approach could become more widely used, helping AVs learn from new experiences and obstacles they haven't encountered before. AVs depend on many technologies, including high-definition maps, working in tandem together, but AI will almost certainly play a role in propelling them forward.

Beth McLoughlin 2023

Beth McLoughlin

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