Autonomous Cars: Everything You Need to Know!

For the last few years, we have been hearing a lot about autonomous vehicles. They are coming, they are going to take over our roads, Tech and automobile giants such as Google, Apple, Tesla are going to introduce their autonomous cars into the market next year, etc. 

Despite these hyps created for autonomous cars, we don’t get to see them on our roads often unless you live in Silicon Valley where they conduct all the experiments for autonomous vehicles.

Have you ever wondered why is it taking so long to have self-driving cars on our roads?

In this article, we are going to explore Autonomous vehicles, their features, why we don’t get to see them on road yet, and most importantly their future and why electric vehicles are preferred most for autonomous cars.

#1. What is an autonomous vehicle?

The definition goes like this.

A self-driving car is one that can sense its surroundings and operate without the need for human intervention. At any point a human passenger does not have to take control of the vehicle, nor is a human passenger required to be present in the vehicle at all. A self-driving car can go anywhere a conventional car can go and do all a skilled human driver can do.

  • Autonomous vehicles are essentially driverless vehicles that can operate without any human intervention.
  • They serve the same purpose as your conventional car except that you may sleep sitting in the driver’s seat.

But all autonomous vehicles are not made equal. They have been classified into 5 categories according to their level of competence.

Level 0: Humans are in charge of all major control features.

Level 1: The vehicle can control individual systems, such as cruise control or automatic braking, one at a time.

Level 2: the vehicle has at least two automatic functions running at the same time, such as acceleration and steering, but it still needs human intervention for safe operation.

Level 3: Under such circumstances, the vehicle can handle all important safety functions, but the driver must take over when notified.

Level 4: the car is completely autonomous in some, but not all, driving situations.

Level 5: the vehicle is fully self-contained in all cases.

Now we have an idea about autonomous vehicle now let us try to understand how do they do that,

#2. How Autonomous vehicles work

For the sake of understanding, let us imagine that an autonomous vehicle as your family computer but has wheels. Your computers have input devices like a mouse and keyboard and your instructions to your computer using these devices.

Once the input is taken your computer performs some complex or simple manipulations with your input data and returns you a meaningful result.

Autonomous cars

The same is true for an autonomous vehicle. They collect pieces of information from the environment through their input devices such as cameras and sensors. Once they collect the information from outside they manipulate the data with complex machine learning algorithms such as predictive models, image recognition, neural networks, etc, and give instructions such as accelerate, brake, steer left or right, etc.

  • Hardware components are in charge of detecting environmental characteristics and passing the information to the on-board device. Cameras, radars, sonars, and LIDARs are currently the most common.
  • The autonomous car’s hardware components allow it to perform functions such as seeing, talking, and moving.
  • The software acts as the brain, processing information from the environment to decide what action to take.
  • Such as, whether to move, stop, slow down, and so on. Perception, planning, and control are the three mechanisms that can be used to identify autonomous vehicle software.

#3. Why Electric vehicles are preferred

Electric vehicles are most preferred for autonomous vehicles because of the numerous advantages and characteristics electric vehicles have over conventional IC engine-powered vehicles. Driving a vehicle needs lots of actions such as accelerating, braking, gear shifting, steering, etc.

  • In a conventional IC engine accelerating the vehicle is done by increasing the amount of fuel flow to the engine and the fuel injectors in IC engine vehicles are very complicated.
  • An electric vehicle can be accelerated simply by controlling the input parameters like current and it can be done easily by a computer. 
  • Breaking is a complex process in a conventional vehicle as it involves numerous cylinders and pistons are involved in it.
  • In an electric vehicle, a combination of regenerative and friction braking is simple and effective using electronic controllers.

#4. Challenges to overcome

The main challenge is to teach the vehicle to drive itself it requires a tremendous amount of effort and data to teach the vehicle how to behave as a human driver. The vehicle has to be trained in different terrains such as hill areas, highways, urban areas, etc. Since they lack depend upon sensors and cameras any malfunction on these devices might end in something bad.

  • Autonomous vehicles rely hugely on their sensors and cameras and any malfunction in those might misguide the vehicle.
  • On a winter day, the autonomous vehicle might be confused about the dividing lines if the road is covered with snow.
  • We, humans, have something called emotional intelligence and we use it often while driving to send messages to other drivers with a blink or wave something.
  • But autonomous vehicle cant understands what you are trying to say with an eye blink.
  • They require stable internet for effective decision making and it is still a problem in certain parts of the world.
  • They require a number of cutting edge technologies and devices working together to move forward and it is an expensive thing right now.

#5. Advantages of autonomous vehicles

When compared to human-driven cars, autonomous vehicle technology might be able to deliver certain advantages. One such possible benefit is that they could improve road safety.

  • Car collisions cause a large number of deaths per year, and automated vehicles could theoretically reduce the number of fatalities because the software used in them is likely to make fewer mistakes than humans.
  • Autonomous vehicles could be able to minimize traffic congestion by reducing the number of collisions, which is another possible benefit.
  • Autonomous driving will accomplish this by eliminating human behaviors that cause roadblocks, such as stop-and-go traffic.
  • Another benefit of automatic driving is that people who are unable to drive due to age or disability may be able to use automated cars as more convenient modes of transportation.

Conclusion

This latest generation of automobiles would have a huge influence on our lives. The transportation system is also being redesigned towards a better more efficient and cleaner tomorrow. Autonomous cars have been a human dream for ages now and as we have resolved many great problems throughout the years, the challenges mentioned above will be faded way shortly and we will be able to spot self-driving cars on our roads, and one day we could get one for us and reap the benefits of our modern-day technologies.

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Key points

  • What is an autonomous vehicle?
  • How do autonomous vehicles work?
  • Why EVs are preferred for autonomous vehicles?
  • Challenges to overcome
  • Advantages of autonomous vehicles

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