Magna, a major automotive supplier that develops parts and systems for automotive manufacturers, has unveiled a system that carmakers can use to make any car self-driving capable. Called MAX4, Magna intends to work with various manufacturers to integrate it into the next generation of vehicles.
The MAX4 system functions as what is known as a level four autonomous system, which means once the “driver” tells it where to go, it can proceed to the destination, no matter how far it is, without any further attention. With multiple automakers and technology companies currently developing their own self-driving systems, Magna is leveraging its existing industry experience to develop a product that’s more flexible than that of its rivals.
Key among the MAX4 features is that it doesn’t require major compromises on the part of vehicle design and engineering teams. While it uses the same fundamental inputs as other systems—radar, LiDAR, ultrasonic sensors, and cameras, Magna claims its system doesn’t take up cargo or interior space, and eliminates the need for bulky sensors on the car’s exterior.
MAX4 also offers a preview of what mass-produced self-driving technology will look like from a driver’s perspective. It’s activated at the touch of a button, and deactivated by pressing the brake pedal, not unlike a cruise control system. The gas pedal and steering wheel also override the system.
What truly makes MAX4 unique is that it’s intended for multiple automakers. Magna claims it can be adapted to a wide range of platforms, and while it released a video demonstrating the system in a Jeep on public roads, it is adamant that it will work just as seamlessly with other offerings.
In that sense, this is not unlike a company developing a new transmission for use in many different applications. The system is what Magna calls “processor neutral,” which means a manufacturer can use its own proprietary technologies in conjunction with the Magna system when developing new vehicles.
Magna will release further information on MAX4 at the Frankfurt auto show later this month.
-- by Aaron Miller