Groupe PSA, the parent company in charge of Peugeot, Citroen and DS Automobiles, has announced its official plans to enter the autonomous vehicle race. But unlike more ambitious plans from rival manufacturers, the French firm is happy to take a back seat in the tech race.
At the launch of the Autonomous Vehicle for All (or AVA, pictured top of page) program in Paris this week, Groupe PSA revealed that it would start rolling out autonomous features to production cars by next year, with demonstration vehicles on hand for the general public to test.
But industry publication Automotive News Europe reports that where rival manufacturers have scheduled 2020 as a release date for Level 4 or 5 autonomous features (allowing hands-off and eyes-off driving in some situations) Groupe PSA will set itself up for a less ambitious range of Level 3 driving assistants.
The move is a surprising one, as manufacturers like Volvo and Ford have elected to skip over Level 3 autonomy, where the driver does not need to maintain contact with the steering wheel, but may be asked to intervene quickly in emergency situations.
Groupe PSA instead will persevere with Level 3 tech, and is satisfied with test results that show driver’s are able to resume control in a timely manner if required, satisfying International Organization for Standardization requirements.
From 2018 Level 2 features like self-parking systems and semi-autonomous cruise control systems will begin to appear across the upmarket DS range before quickly trickling down to mainstream Citroen and Peugeot models.
The upgrade to Level 3 system will arrive in 2020 with the introduction “chauffeur” autonomy in traffic jam situations, with highway-compatible self-driving to follow.
A wider range of autonomous systems including a move to Level 4 driving which requires no intervention from the driver and Level 5, allowing the car to operate without a driver entirely, won’t come until after 2025.
Groupe PSA’s previous financial difficulties have been blamed for putting the automaker’s technological developments on the back foot, but the company’s stronger financial position sees it able to move its research and development spending forward.
The company is also evaluating how its recently acquired Opel and Vauxhall brands will fit with the autonomous roadmap, though it seem unlikely that any of General Motors' existing autonomous technology programs will form part of the deal, leaving Groupe PSA to create its own solutions.