The Future of Self-driving Vehicles

Imagine, you need to go to drop your kids to school, go work, pickup and drop kids from school to their soccer or ballet practice, pickup dry cleaning and groceries, then pick up the kids before you go back home. Sounds tiring, doing it is probably even worse. Not because, these are too many mundane tasks, but because of all the traffic. Constantly keeping your foot on the gas and break peddle, the uncomfortable car seat, the navigation, and traffic have probably taken a toll on your feet, legs, and back. Employing a chauffeur is the luxury of the rich. Hiring a cab is tough enough, but with these many pits stops, it is next to impossible.

Now imagine, you sitting comfortably in the car, catching up on your work, calls, and kids, while you from point to point around the city checking off your to-do list, without fretting about the pesky traffic. No, this is no joke. What if we tell you, that science and technological advancements are allowing your car to drive itself in and around the city and you sitting comfortably enjoying the drive?  Self-driving vehicles are likely to be the answer to your driving qualms.

What is a self-driving vehicle? How does it work and is it safe? Who’s making it? These might be a few questions vexing your mind right about now.  Read ahead to know more about the solution to your driving problems

But first, did you know?

The concept of self-driving vehicles goes back to the 1939 World's Fair, which was held in New York. General Motors had predicted the development of radio-controlled electricity-powered cars. When the TVs and modern appliances became affordable in the 1950s, many more companies predicted the development of self-driving cars.

How do self-driving vehicles work?

Self-driving vehicles are known as robo-car, autonomous vehicle (AV), driverless car, connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV), or robotic car. These vehicles use artificial intelligence (AI), cameras, sensors, light detection and ranging (LiDar), and radar to execute software that sense the environment, navigate, and travel between destinations without human intervention.

A self-driving vehicle creates and maintains a road map and their surroundings using sensors located various parts of the vehicle. Radar monitor the positioning of vehicles in its surroundings. These cameras read road signs and detect traffic lights, and spot and track other vehicles and pedestrians. Lidar sensors pulsate light off other vehicles in its surroundings to calculate distances, identify lane markings and road edges. Sensors in the wheels spot curbs and vehicles while parking, thus eliminating the need for drivers or passengers to get behind the wheel and control the vehicle.

The sophisticated software installed in the vehicle process the sensory input, decide the path with least traffic, and instruct the car’s actuators that control the breaks, accelerator, and steering. Hard-coded rules, obstacle avoidance algorithms, predictive modeling, and object recognition help the software follow traffic rules and navigate obstacles.

Why choose a self-driving vehicles?

The AI, using cameras, sensors, and the radar, responds to dangerous situations on the road faster than human beings do, thus preventing accidents and discomfort to the riders and the cargo. These vehicles operate more smoothly and economically than those driven by humans and reduce traffic.

The use of self-driven vehicles is expected to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, thereby reducing fuel consumption and pollution. Image, a family's self-driving car can drop everyone to work and school and pick them up at any hour of the day or night.

Various tech and vehicle companies are investing in R&D to add unique features such as:

  1. Autonomous emergency braking (AEB), which scans the roads before ahead of time and automatically applies breaks to prevent collision. It works in conjunction with self-steering and lane keeping system.

  2. Lane-keeping assists (LKA) adjusts the front steering angle, thus enabling the vehicle to travel along a desired line of lanes.

  3. Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication allows wirelessly information exchange about speed, positioning, and distance of a vehicle’s surrounding.

  4. Adaptive cruise control (ACC) or the dynamic cruise control is an intelligent cruise controller that slows down or speeds up the vehicle’s speed by monitoring the vehicle in front of it.

  5. Electronic stability control (ESC) uses automatic computer-controlled braking of individual wheels. This helps maintain the control during critical driving situations.

  6. Blindspot detection, which includes active blindspot monitoring and passive blindspot monitoring, provides a 360 degree electronic coverage around the vehicle, regardless of its speed.

  7. Reverse park assist system helps detect objects, vehicles, animals, and people in the vehicle’s blind spot of the vehicle, especially while parking.

These and other technological developments are likely to make any self-driving vehicle owner’s transportation and life much easier.

The Future of Self-driving Vehicles

On September 22, 2020, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Senior Vice President Drew Baglino announced plans to sell self-driving cars for $25,000 within 3 years. The company, at its ‘battery day’ presentation, confirmed that it has designed and is producing its own battery cells at its manufacturing facility in Fremont. This is likely to help the company make affordable cars for mainstream buyers. The company also announced plans to launch a subscription service for its self-driving cars. The subscription service will help customers who lease Tesla vehicles and aren't sure how long they would need to keep their current car.

Germany announced plans to drafting legislation that permit Level 4 autonomous vehicles. The country plans to revise is laws to accommodate the new self-diving vehicles. By doing so, it would become the first country in the world to permit these vehicles in the entire country in 2022. These plans might sound too ambitious, as the commercial launch of driverless vehicles is between five and 10 years away; however, by laying down favorable laws are likely to encourage companies such as Google, Tesla, Audi, Ford, BMW, Volkswagen, General Motors, and Volvo to develop self-driving vehicles quicker. In August 2020, the UK government took a small step toward regulating autonomous vehicles post after consultation processes on Level 2 automated lane keeping systems (ALKS).

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