News - Stellantis
Stellantis to gain Level 3 autonomy
Another major tech advance for the multi-brand car company
17 Jun 2022
By MIKE FOURIE
STELLANTIS will implement French firm Valeo’s third-gen Scala lidar hardware to enable SAE Level 3 autonomous driving in the group’s (ostensibly premium) models from 2024.
Automotive News Europe reported that neither company offered financial details of the contract or stipulated which brands would feature the system, apart from saying that it would appear on "multiple models" across the world’s fifth-largest automaker’s brands.
To illustrate what a coup this is for Stellantis, the second-gen Scala system features on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class grand saloon – the first car to be approved for Level 3 driving on European highways (most self-driving systems utilise radar, cameras and lidar).
In SAE Level 3, however, drivers can divert their attention from the task of driving to do other activities, but they must retake control – when requested to do so by the car.
Lidar – an abbreviation for light detection and ranging – sends pulses of light from a laser, millions of times per second, that bounce off objects and return to the sensor. Onboard computers can use the pulses to create a 3D map of vehicles’ surroundings.
It has certain advantages over cameras, namely processing speed, and unlike cameras is not affected by surface composition, shadows, sunlight, or approaching headlights.
Stellantis has previously said that it would offer "hands-free, eyes-off" Level 3 driving, which it calls STLA AutoDrive, in a partnership with BMW in two years’ time. After that, Stellantis will offer Level 4 and Level 5 autonomy – in which the driver is not involved at all – for "mobility as a service" applications such as autonomous vans for ride-hailing.
BMW, meanwhile, should begin offering Level 3 autonomy later this year when its next-gen 7 Series goes on sale (the competitor to the S-Class is vying to outdo its Stuttgart rival, after all). Stellantis' collaboration with the Bavarian brand is a continuation of a prior partnership between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (now Stellantis), BMW, Mobileye and Intel.
Valeo is claimed to be the biggest player in automotive 3D scanning lidar systems and will produce its third-gen Scala system for Stellantis in its factory in Wemding, Germany.
The third-gen Scala lidar, for which Valeo will manufacture the hardware, software and AI, has 12 times better resolution, three times longer range – it can visualise objects more than 200m away – and a 2.5-times wider viewing angle than the current-gen system.
The French supplier anticipates that the automotive lidar market will quadruple between 2025 and 2030, eventually reaching a global total of €50 billion ($A75b).
Stellantis is not averse to co-operating with its former DaimlerChrysler partner – the Three-pointed Star – either. Late last year, the multi-brand group and Mercedes-Benz took an undisclosed financial stake in US-based solid-state battery developer Factorial Energy.
The collaboration with the Factorial Energy (in which Hyundai/Kia is also involved) aims to significantly improve the energy density of EV battery packs. The Massachusetts-based firm claims its “breakthrough solid-state batteries” offer up to 50 per cent longer range per charge and increased safety at a similar price point to conventional lithium-ion units.
With Automotive News Europe.
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