PARIS -- PSA Group has offered details of its timetable for introducing autonomous driving, starting early next year with features including self-parking available on the new DS 7 Crossback SUV/crossover.
The upscale DS range will be the first point of introduction for autonomous and other high-tech features. In addition to self-parking, which PSA calls Park Pilot, other so-called Level 2 automation will include Connected Pilot, which monitors the car's position within its lane and relative to other vehicles.
Those features will be available on Peugeot and Citroen models soon after they appear on the DS 7, said Marguerite Hubsch, a PSA spokeswoman, declining to give any specific dates.
PSA currently offers Level 1 autonomy features, defined as "driver assistance," by the engineer's group SAE International.
Those features, including adaptive cruise control, active braking and lane-keeping assistance, are available on the Peugeot 208 and 308 hatchbacks, the 2008 and 3008 crossovers, and the Traveller van, PSA said. They are also available on similar Citroen models like the C3, C4 Picasso and Spacetourer. Vehicles for the Chinese market with the features are the Peugeot 4008 and Citroen C6.
PSA is allowing non-expert drivers to take part in on-road tests of the next steps in automation, Levels 3 and 4, in which the vehicle monitors and performs all aspects of driving. In Level 3, "conditional automation" or "eyes off," humans are expected to take over if necessary; in Level 4, "high automation" or "mind off," the system provides the fallback protection if the human does not respond.
The automaker says it will start introducing Level 3 features, which are not currently legal on European roads, after 2020. PSA has authorization for road tests for five prototypes with advanced autonomy features, and is working with partners that include Bosch, Valeo, ZF/TRW and Safran, as well as university-based research groups.
PSA's plans are somewhat more conservative than rivals.
A new "Leaderboard Report" on autonomous vehicle competitiveness from Navigant Research released on April 3 ranks PSA as 11th among 18 automakers and integrated suppliers. Navigant's criteria include "go-to-market strategy," partners, production strategy, marketing, product portfolio and "staying power."
Sam Abuelsamid, a senior analyst at Navigant and the lead author of the report, said PSA's financial issues in recent years had held it back from autonomous vehicle leadership. "Over the last three to four years they've focused on rebuilding the core of their business," Abuelsamid said. "Now that they've got themselves on more solid footing, they're ready to move forward and roll out more advanced technology."
Abuelsamid said that PSA's network of strong suppliers meant that the company "has all the important pieces in place as far as sensors and actuators."
Navigant ranks Ford, General Motors, the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler as leaders, closely followed by top "contenders" -- Volkswagen Group, BMW, Waymo (Google) and Volvo/Autoliv/Zenuity.
The report describes PSA as member of the second "contender" group, along with Delphi, Hyundai Motor, Tesla, Toyota, and ZF.
Of this group, Navigant says, "While they have the basic infrastructure and capability in place, most have decided to be cautious in their rollout plans." Tesla is an exception, with Navigant citing its "aggressive" automated policy limited by unrelated business issues, including profitability.
Abuelsamid said there was little information on whether GM would share or license its autonomous vehicle technology with PSA, but added that the GM was not likely to do so because it had developed much of that in-house.
Safety and liability
Autonomous vehicles have been under the safety spotlight after an Uber prototype crashed in Arizona last month, leading the ride-sharing company to suspend its testing program. Hubsch, the PSA spokeswoman, said the Uber accident would not change anything for PSA.
Automakers are also wrestling with the issue of accident liability as autonomous technology advances and vehicles take over more and more of the driving functions. Some companies, such as Volvo, which partners with Uber, Mercedes-Benz and Google, have already acknowledged that they would assume such responsibility.
Hubsch said that PSA has been carefully examining the liability issue and would communicate its position in the near future.