PSA’s aœord­able au­ton­o­mous tech

PSA’s a ord­able au­ton­omy

CAR (UK) - - Contents - COLIN OVER­LAND


HE CARS tak­ing a lead with self-driv­ing tend to be at the ex­pen­sive end of the mar­ket. But mak­ers of more mod­est cars are busy work­ing on ve­hi­cles that will ease our tran­si­tion to a cleaner, safer fu­ture in which we can still be in­de­pen­dently mo­bile. The boffins at PSA – own­ers of Peu­geot, Citroën, DS and now Vaux­hall-Opel too – have been fig­ur­ing out a route to au­ton­o­mous driv­ing that’s not about sci-fi fu­turescapes out of Blade Run­ner; it’s about putting in the hard yards, and not as­sum­ing that the high­ways au­thor­i­ties are in any hurry to en­ter the dig­i­tal age.

We spent a day ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some of PSA’s pro­to­types. But first a ride through the Paris sub­urbs in a cur­rent pro­duc­tion car, a Citroën C4 Pi­casso with a fa­mil­iar set of 2017-spec as­sis­tance kit: ac­tive cruise con­trol (which lets the driver ad­justs speed and dis­tance), lane keep­ing as­sis­tance (which can eas­ily be over-rid­den if it’s foxed by pe­cu­liar road mark­ings), ac­tive safety brak­ing (spot­ting pedes­tri­ans, and stop­ping the car if you don’t). Sim­ple, in­tu­itive and un­in­tru­sive, it’s mostly about help­ing the driver to stay out of trouble.

And then we got into a Peu­geot 3008 de­vel­op­ment mule test­ing some of the tech­nol­ogy that’ll soon start ar­riv­ing on pro­duc­tion cars, with the im­mi­nent DS7 Cross­back set for Level 2 au­ton­omy (‘driver-su­per­vised au­to­mated driv­ing’). Out­side, it’s a reg­u­lar 3008 but with a lot more scan­ners, sen­sors and cam­eras; most of the re­ally clever stuff can’t be seen. It has built-in map­ping (which works even if the GPS sig­nal is weak) so that it al­ways knows where au­ton­o­mous driv­ing is and isn’t al­lowed and can tell the driver it’s time to take over. It can park it­self. It checks you’re awake. It can spot pedes­tri­ans and wildlife 100 me­tres ahead at night. You press the High­way Chauf­feur but­ton and it will drive it­self, in some cir­cum­stances. For in­stance, it can per­form flaw­less over­takes: the driver in­di­cates, but then the car makes a judge­ment about the tim­ing and speed of the ma­noeu­vre. (Just like on the lat­est S-Class, but at five times the price of a 3008.)

Currently 20 pro­to­types are be­ing run by PSA. Since March, more than 1000 non-pro­fes­sional driv­ers have been out in au­ton­o­mous pro­to­types on pub­lic roads. As well as find­ing out which as­pects of the new tech­nol­ogy need tweak­ing, and which sen­sor lo­ca­tions are best for avoid­ing dirt and dam­age, the tests are also pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion about how the typ­i­cal driver in­ter­acts with po­ten­tially in­tim­i­dat­ing self-driv­ing features.

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