Autonomous vehicles are already a reality
A self-driving car is one that has the computer systems necessary to mimic a human’s vehicle driving through the streets and take passengers from one destination to another without the need for a being to manipulate the steering wheel, throttle or brake to drive the vehicle, because this is done by the car by itself. Self-driving cars will be the vehicles of the future, they have long been working on them and it is something that society looks forward to because of the great number of advantages they will give us.
Vehicles capable of perceiving the environment around them, which have technology capable of braking them, advancing other cars, parking, respecting road signs, maintaining a safe distance from the car and other actions that humans take when sitting behind a steering wheel.
Autonomous vehicles rely on sensors, complex algorithms, machine learning systems, high-performance microprocessors to run software for their particular purpose. Autonomous vehicles create and maintain a map of your environment based on a variety of sensors located in different parts of your environment. These radar sensors control the position of nearby vehicles. Video cameras detect traffic lights, read traffic signals, track other vehicles, and search for pedestrians. Lidar (Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging) sensors bounce pulses of light around the car to measure distances, detect road edges, and identify lane markings.
Computer equipment and software
The main thing is the computer with a computer package (software) with which the entire autonomous driving system is programmed, in this are coded all traffic rules (including signals and priorities of passage), street maps and places of each city. It is also programmed so that the car turns right or left, brakes, gives way and speed. For this to happen, programming is combined with electronics.
The software-electronic system controls cruising speed and throttle. The steering is controlled by an electric motor that rotates the steering wheel so many degrees in one direction or the other. Currently these systems have already been implemented in modern cars, such as pre-collision and automatic braking, or in parking assistant systems.
It is also important to have a detailed cartographic reproduction of the terrain, so that the advance in navigation is normal. All this hardware can have dependencies on an artificial intelligence system and be connected to ‘the cloud’. Thus, the information obtained by all vehicles can serve the rest and, ultimately, the constant evolution of an autonomous driving system following the guidelines of machine learning.
The computer records all the information of each route, so that when the car re-runs a certain journey by itself, it compares the data collected by the sensors with those recorded. This recognizes what a tree, lamp, or mailbox is, what a pedestrian is. These systems are called Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS):
- Vehicle maintenance system in the lane.
- Adaptive cruise control.
- Vehicle speed adjustment.
- Safety distance between vehicles.
- and intelligent speed control.
Self-driving and automated car
There are five levels of autonomy. Tests are currently carried out on Tier 4 autonomy vehicles. The technology has already created Tier 5 vehicles (total autonomy), although it is in the testing and adaptation period for the transition.
Level 0: The human driver does all the task of driving.
Level 1: An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) in the vehicle can sometimes help the human driver with steering or braking/acceleration, but cannot help with both simultaneously.
Level 2: An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) in the vehicle can control both steering and braking/acceleration simultaneously in some circumstances. The human driver must continue to pay full attention, monitor the driving environment at all times and perform the rest of the driving task.
Level 3: An Automated Driving System (ADS) in the vehicle can perform all aspects of the driving task in some circumstances. In such circumstances, the human driver must be ready to regain control at any time when the ADS asks the human driver to do so. In any other circumstance, the human driver performs the driving task.
Level 4: An Automated Driving System (ADS) in the vehicle can perform all driving tasks and monitor the driving environment essentially, do all the driving in certain circumstances. The human driver should not pay attention in such circumstances.
Level 5: An Automated Driving System (ADS) in the vehicle can perform all driving tasks under any circumstances. Human occupiers are only passengers and should never get involved in driving.
Features of self-driving cars
These vehicles have the same physical characteristics as common cars, with the difference that they do not have pedals and have different components that constitute the “virtual brain”. The “virtual brain” is the entity that is responsible for identifying the environment and the existing situation, analyzing it, interpreting it and then acting accordingly, being exactly the same sequences that the “human brain” does when handling a car.
Elements that are repeated over and over in this type of car have been identified, regardless of their brand. Among these elements we find:
- Sensors, such as the eyes and ears of the car: LiDAR sensors for location, cameras and radar. These lidar sensors are able to see in 360 degrees and with a range of two football fields away.
- Ceiling-mounted and windshield-mounted cameras that identify objects and read road signs.
- Short- and long-range radars, ready to see in rain, fog or snow.
- Algorithms: used for localization and route selection.
- Computerized vision and learning.
- High definition 3D maps.
- High computing and computing power to handle this data.
Advantages and disadvantages of autonomous vehicles
- Some expenses will be reduced for citizens. In many countries the cost of gasoline, parking and chauffeur (taxis, Uber, etc.) are extremely high.
- Traffic accidents will be reduced because autonomous vehicles have an intelligent system that is programmed with sensors, laser beams and GPS, to make the right decisions when driving on the roads.
- The environment will be favored because these vehicles are completely electronic which makes them free of polluting emissions.
- Traffic due to autonomous vehicle connection and synchronization systems will be completely reduced or eradicated.
- Human beings cannot intervene if problems arise: let us not forget that the most sophisticated machines and technology are created and developed by man, therefore it is not an exact or perfect science.
- Price: it is exit price is unknown, but as it is the most cutting-edge technology on the market, it could reach very high heights.
- Loss of faculties: if we no longer need to drive, will we have to get some kind of accreditation or license? Aren’t we going to learn how to drive a traditional car? What if the technology doesn’t apply everywhere on the planet?