The future’s early than anticipated. It is no more a science fiction fantasy. Self Driving Cars are already here. Also known as Autonomous cars or Driverless cars, Self Driving cars are; as the name suggests are vehicles which require zero human input for mobility. Thanks to innovative technologies like RADAR, LiDAR, Sonar, and a host of other electronic aids that help the self driving vehicle navigate its way without any human interference.
Self Driving Cars | The Technology
Various technology giants have taken the leap with self driving cars. From Google’s self driving project Waymo to electric car pioneer Tesla (Auto Pilot). Even mainstream car companies like General Motors, Nissan, Renault, Mercedes-Benz, Audi all have taken a swing with autonomous driving.
But, all this would not have been possible without technology. Self driving cars of today employ many bleeding edge technologies in mobility and navigation.
Take for example; Google’s self driving cars, which uses LiDAR; an integrated row of upto 60 lasers that create a 3D visualisation of the surrounding terrain.
- Besides LiDARS and RADARS, self-driving cars also use Sonars which emits a high-frequency sound to map the road ahead.
- Then there are Ultrasonic sensors, which enables the vehicle to sense its 360° surrounding.
- GPS is used to geo-locate and assist the vehicle in navigation
- On top of all this, there is the brain behind this whole autonomous operations; A.I, which observes, learns and monitors the behaviour of the vehicle in tandem with the road and traffic.
Did you know? there are 6 levels of autonomy for a self driving vehicle!
- Level 0: The very basic baby steps for autonomy. A human is in charge of driving with enhancements like blind spot detection and lane driving warning.
- Level 1: There is a mutual control over the vehicle. Systems like Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Braking, Lane Assist falls under Level 1 autonomy.
- Level 2: Now we are getting somewhere. Level 2 is somewhat partial automation with the car having steering and acceleration capabilities. Human intervention is still required.
- Level 3: 80% automation. Although the vehicle can completely take over on its own from steering, braking, manoeuvring. Human corrections are required when called upon. Not a very popular level for self-driving cars.
- Level 4: The car is now fully autonomous with a steering wheel. Although not necessary, a human can still take over if required. The vehicle can safely come to a halt if all systems fail.
- Level 5: The super saiyan level of autonomy. The vehicle has taken the true autonomous form. No steering wheels, accelerator, clutch and brakes. Just sit back, have a tea and relax!
Self Driving Cars | Yay or Nay?
The introduction of self-driving cars opened a floodgate of innovations in the mobility industry. Some radical technologies have seen the light of the day.
There are demerits with this technology though; autonomous vehicle will negatively impact jobs in the taxi and transport industry. The technology of today is also deemed not refined enough for pedestrian and motorist safety. There are also legal and ethical concerns over self driving cars plying on public roads.
But the benefits far outweigh the negatives, As AI is totally immune to human tendencies like fatigue, illness and emotions, self-driving cars will undoubtedly make our commute safer. One can also not ignore the fact that self driving cars will reduce the burden of traffic on our roads. Self driving Electric cars, on the other hand, will make commuting easy as well as green.
Autonomous vehicle will also enable the impaired, elderly who are not able to drive themselves around.
Recent research by NHTSA reveals that over 90% of road accidents are caused by human error or human lapse in judgement.
Self Driving Cars in India?
Bad news! India won’t be getting self driving cars anytime soon. Besides the technology being terribly expensive, self driving cars have seen a cold response from the government. In a statement by the Union Minister for Road Transportation and Highways, Nitin Gadkari said: “there are 22 lakh drivers waiting to get jobs and driverless cars will hamper their prospects of getting a job”.
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