January 17, 2021

Handsfree

Electric automaker Rivian will makes its hands-free driver assistance system standard in every vehicle it builds, including its first two vehicles — the RT1 pickup truck and R1S SUV — that are coming to market in 2021.

Details about the system, which is branded as Driver+, was just one of numerous new bits of information released Wednesday on its website, including prices and specs on its R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV.

Rivian said the driver assistance system will automatically steer, adjust speed and change lanes on command. The capabilities of the system that Rivian describes suggests it is a Level 2 system as designated by SAE International. Level 2 means the system can perform two or more parts of the driving task under supervision of the driver. To support this level of driving, the system will be powered by two redundant compute platforms, 12 ultrasonic sensors, 10 exterior cameras, five radars and high-precision GPS. This essentially gives the vehicle 360-camera and radar visibility. It’s robust suite of hardware that exceeds what Tesla uses for its driver assistance system. The hardware suite is similar to GM’s hands-free Super Cruise system with the exception that Rivian appears to have more cameras.

Rivian is also placing driver-monitoring system that includes a cabin-facing camera in its vehicles to ensure that drivers keep their eyes on the road when the system is engaged. Initially, the hands-free system will only be available on select highways and then expand over time — improvements achieved via over-the-air software updates — to include a broader geographic area and more road types. This is similar to GM’s approach with its hands-free Super Cruise system, which was initially limited to certain divided highways and eventually expanded.

While there are a number of automakers with Level 2 systems, they vary in capability. GM’s hands-free Super Cruise and Tesla’s Autopilot systems are considered some of the most capable and easy to use, per a recent Consumer Reports evaluation of driver assistance systems. However, Tesla’s system scored lower overall because it lacks a driver monitoring system that makes sure the driver is alert and paying attention to the road.

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