What is an Autonomous Vehicle?
Driverless cars or self-driving cars are commonly known as autonomous vehicles in the market. People call them Robo–cars. These cars doesn’t need any human operative interaction to perform all the necessary functions of the driving.
Examples of Autonomous vehicles
- Cadillac CT6’s
- Mercedes-Benz Distronic Plus,
- Nissan ProPilot Assist,
- Tesla Autopilot.
- Audi A8 sedan
- General Motor (GM) Super Cruise and many more
How The Autonomous Vehicles Actually Work?
Before you head to take a rise in one of the autonomous vehicles out there in market, you might be wondering how they do actually work. The driver-less cars technology existence is actually possible due to 3 main technologies:
- Iot sensors
- Iot connectivity
- Software Algorithms
Navigation System of Self-driving cars
The navigation system is based on many different types of sensors that make such cars existence possible.
Sensors for blind-spot monitoring, sonar forward collision warning, radar, camera, LIDAR.(Light detection and Ranging). Such sensors provide these cars an idea of their surroundings and what lies in their vicinity ahead.
- The radar sensor works by a transceiver system which uses radio-waves. This transceiver sends the radio–waves. They reflects the objects or any obstacles present in surroundings and eventually bounce back for its processing to the sensor. Now the time duration the wave takes to come back to transceiver sensor determines the distance of object or obstacle from the car. Sonar And Lidar work in the same, but the difference lies in the use of waves type.
- Sonar uses sound waves instead of radio waves.
- On the contrary, Lidar uses lasers for its processing.
For the Iot connectivity, autonomous cars must be having a good internet connection. The cloud computing is important for traffic data, weather, maps, adjacent cars, and surface conditions among others. Well this is also important for before-time taking decisions by knowing changing environmental conditions like weather.
Control Algorithms and Software
Software algorithms are crucial for making decisions flawlessly. We can say this is the most complex part of driver-less cars as all the collected data by car needs proper analysis for better course of action. And here comes the software algorithm which performs this task.
Electronic Control Units (ECU’s)
For the suitable braking, accelerating and steering mechanisms of cars to be done, the cars need to be physically wired to ECU’s electronic control units. ECU’s can decently control these functions of the car they are installed in, for the vehicles to drive on their own, when and where necessary.
3 Dimensional Model of Surroundings Like in Tesla
In addition to all the information provided above, driverless cars uses cameras and global navigation satellite system. Thus, Tesla cars use an AUTOPILOT MODE for analyzing the surroundings. And this auto-pilot works by using high-tech cameras for collecting data much like the way our do, which we can say as “Computer Vision”.
Then the interpretation and processing of information is also done by this mode to see which objects are in motion for making accurate decisions timely like predicting their trajectories seconds into future.
Unlike Tesla, Google cars use a very different approach by applying Lidar instead of Autopilot mode. These lidars use light instead of radio-waves, and eventually the need for steering wheels and pedals is bypassed.
6 Different Levels Of Autonomous Cars
Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) describes 6 levels of autonomy to describe and explain the situation for what a driver motive and actions should be when a car drives on its own.
As the level of automacy increase, it means human driver operative control decreases, and the increased driverless car’s independence escalates control of driving functions by the vehicle alone.
LEVEL 0 (NO AUTOMATION)
In this level, the driver needs to control all the driving functions as the car has no control over any automation, as the car has 0 automated assistance technology. The vehicles which can’t perform any automated function on its own falls under the category of AUTONOMY LEVEL 0.
For example., This level is applicable to all the vehicles which are driven solely by human drivers, like the affordable 2018 HONDA FIT.
LEVEL 1 (DRIVER ASSISTIVE)
This level is slightly above as it allows the vehicle to provide some assistance to driver in accelerating, braking and steering. But these functions can’t be performed at the same time.
To fall under this category, the vehicle must have ONE advanced adaptive autonomous ability.
For example., Any model with adaptive cruise control (ACC) or lane-keep technology is considered Level 1 Autonomous vehicle. And the vehicle with ACC power and lane-keeping technology is KIA STINGER GT.
LEVEL 2 (Partial Automation By the Vehicle)
To fall under this category, the car must need to support 2 of the advanced driver-assisted features. Such that accelerating/braking and steering at the same time. But the driver must need to take necessary steps under changing circumstances by having a continuous control over brakes and steering wheel.
LEVEL 3 (Conditional Automation By the Vehicle)
In this level, the vehicle has complete control over driving. But it still requires the driver to be attentive all the time. Although driven can take hands off the steering wheel but any emergency could happen. And the driver should always be alert for that. When all the determined operative conditions are met, you can hand over the control to car itself for selective part of the journey.
Example., The 2019 Audi A8 might be the first Level 3 vehicle made available for public. But the company’s Traffic Jam Pilot tech is still not approval yet in many countries.
LEVEL 4 (High Automotive Control By Vehicle)
For this level of automotive car, driver doesn’t need to pay any heed to road or driving. This is such a high automation level in which driver can communicate with rear sitting passengers without keeping focus on the screen. The car is fully capable of doing anything i.e., managing traffic, bearing signals, taking approriate turns under guidelines and so many other things.
It has also been in the news that future LEVEL 4 Automotive SAE cars have their seats to be turned to 180 degrees. So that the people on front side can easily see and communicate with the people sitting at the back. Well this would be really high and advanced technology if applied properly.
Example., Still there are no level 4 Autonomous cars available for people consumption yet.
Level 5 (Highly-advanced Fully Automated Vehicles)
This level of car is what people consider to be a typical “ROBOT-CAR”. These cars do not require any driver at all. Moreover, they are completely and safely DRIVER-LESS. Therefore, the most ultimate and advanced form of automation by the application of 5G technology. Level 5 Cars are complete hands off, lack all driving controls, such as a steering wheel, manual brakes, and an accelerator pedal; driverless operations under every situations.
For Example., Unfortunately yet fortunately, we are now a long distance away from this type of ultimate technology. Hopefully, its going to take years or may be decades, to reach that level of automation.
Top 5 Self-Driving Cars to Watch in 2021
- Waymo By Google
- GM (General Motor) Cruise
- Argo AI
Advantages and Disadvantages of Autonomous Vehicles
After reading all this, you might imagine Why do we need such cars at all? Well the suitable answer for this questions is “SAFETY”. Because the annual fatality rate from only traffic-accidents worldwide is 1.35 Million people, and that’s a quite big number.
For such cars, there would be 0 chance of error. Because HUMANS MAKE MISTAKES not robots. These cars would have specialized software algorithms, and would determine the exact distance of car from nearby cars, simply knows when to stop and when to proceed. Also only humans suffer from interruptions, not robots. So, the chance of traffic accidents could be dramatically reduced by this intervention.
Here is the list of Advantages we can have by assuring this technology for public consumption.
1: Reduced fatality rate from accidents
2. Lessens traffic jams
3. Stress-free parking
4. Time-saving vehicle
5. Accessibility to transportation
- 1. Expensive
- 2. Safety and security concerns
- 3. Prone to Hacking
- 4. Fewer job opportunities for others
- 5. Non-functional sensors
To sum up, no doubt, autonomous vehicles technology is going to change our lives sooner or later. It doesn’t matter if we own a robot-car or not. Despite of all the threats and disadvantages of using autonomous vehicles, nobody can deny the importance of such cars for physically impaired people and for older ones.
Because due to ageism, these people are pushed to side from their societal interactive benefits. But with this technology, everyone will be able to drive and share their parts in respective community.