It seems that any news regarding the development of driverless technology is a matter of curiosity for many of us around the world since its successful test drive in different parts of the world.Now it is not only a part of science fiction story or Hollywood movie. They already exist or soon going to be out there in large numbers. After the testing of a number of driverless cars on the public roads, there are a few questions that come up in the minds of people. How does it run without a driver? Even if technology can make it possible, how can such a car avoid accidents while running? Obviously such curiosities pushed me to have a small research on the topic and write this post. This article covers some basic ideas on driverless car technology and the curiosities involved with it.
What is an autonomous car?
An autonomous or driverless car is a vehicle capable of sensing its surroundings and navigate without the help of a human being or driver. It can also be called as a driver-free car, self-driving car or robot car. How does an autonomous car find its way for moving forward?
Autonomous cars use the principles of Radar, Lidar, GPS and Computer Vision for finding its path.Inorder to move forward, an autonomous car needs to know the relative position of it with respect to its surrounding objects and obstacles on its way. This task is accomplished by utilising equipments like those listed below.
1. Radar Sensors: The signals that are send out from a radar helps to detect any objects or obstacles that are on the route of the car.
2. Lidar (Laser Range Finder): This is to be fixed on the top of the car that send out laser signals to take horizontal distance measurements.
3. GPS unit: Satellite information is used to find the location of the car.
4. Cameras and Image-processing software: Computer vision techniques are utilised here in order to process the pictures taken from the camera by image processing software. Images obtained from the cameras. The images from the camera can be used to distinguish the driving lanes on the road. Image processing software is capable of detecting traffic lights and signs.
If the autonomous car needs to move forward, it requires a map of the area. The map needed here is obtained using techniques utilized in the equipments listed above. With the help of those techniques, the car will obtain a map of its immediate surrounding with all the objects and travel path defined in that area. The relative position of the car will always be changing with respect to the surrounding objects and path when the map is continuously updated.
Who are the main manufacturers of driverless cars at present?
At present google seems to be the forerunner in this field with the testing of its car google self-drive. The presence of search engine giant google in this field motivates other major brands also to try and test their own versions of autonomous cars.
Video source:The Verge
Mercedes-Benz had their version of driverless cars experimenting on the public roads. Mercedes Benz S500 Intelligent Drive research vehicle successfully completed its hundred kilometre long test drive route in Germany last year. Click the link below to see the amazing video of Mercedes-Benz self-driving car.
BMW demonstrated its driverless technology at the consumer electronic show conducted in Las Vegas, Nevada, during the month of April 2014. [Heather Kelly]
BMW Autonomous car.
Video Source: Disney Collector Toys Club
Volvo carried out test drives of their cars in different places around the world including London. The Sweden-based car giant is planning to introduce a hundred of their autonomous cars on the public roads of Gothenburg. It is supposed that the cars are going to be tested on certain selected routes in and around Gothenburg. [Chris knapman] Click the link below to see the video of Volvo self-driving car.
Audi recently tested its self-driving technology on an expressway in Florida. In 2012, Florida government implemented a law allowing testing of autonomous vehicles in the state. The new law allows Audi to carry out its test drive on Audi A7 on an expressway in Florida. [Lucas Mearian] Click on the link below to watch a self-driving car from Audi.
Toyota is another big name involved in the manufacturing and development of driverless technology. Here, it is fascinating to see that Google uses a Toyota Prius for testing its technology. [Andrew English]
Researchers from Oxford University is developing autonomous technology with the support of Nissan. They also successfully tested a Nissan Leaf on private roads. Click the link below to watch the video of Nissan autonomous car.
8. Baidu, Inc
Baidu, Inc a Chinese search engine giant is own it way to develop their autonomous car. Unlike other car manufacturers, Baidu is trying to develop a semi-autonomous car rather than a fully autonomous one. In a way, Baidu is trying to develop ideas that may provide more intelligent assistant to help the drivers. So the car may be having steering wheels and pedals for the drivers to take control.[ Barry Levine]
Volkswagen tested a Temporary Auto Pilot system (TAP). The car is supposed to drive at a speed of eighty miles per hour on a highway route. Reports on various publications suggest that Volkswagen is one of the main contenders along with other rivals in the field of developing autonomous driving technology. [David Magee] Most predicted benefits of autonomous cars.
Most predicted benefits of autonomous cars.
If you are unsure about the safety and other aspects of an autonomous vehicle, the advantages listed below may change your mind.
1. Reduces the number of accidents.
If autonomous cars are allowed on the road with all the facilities available for its proper running, there is the possibility of reducing the number of accidents.This is well-supported by the concept that sensors are more accurate than humans.
2. Anyone can use the car
Elderly people, children and those who are disabled can easily use the autonomous cars according to their needs. There is no need to wait for someone who can drive them to their intended location.
3. Lot of free time for those who use the car.
We know that a lot of our time is wasted every day while driving to work or travelling to anywhere. With the invent of driverless cars, a lot of time can be saved for those people who drive. They can utilize the same time for doing something else like reading or watching a movie as we don’t need to worry much about the journey.
4. There is no need for a driving licence.
We all know how hard it is to get a driving licence. This hassle of passing the driving test and obtaining a driving licence can be avoided by use of autonomous cars.
5. More efficient public transport system
Once the technology is fully developed and tested, it can be utilised in public transport facilities like buses and also for running taxis. Travelling in a taxi without a driver seems to be a really interesting scenario.
6. Less time to reach your destination.
The autonomous cars may be running with a much higher speed limit once they are fully established commercially on the roads.
7. Reduced number of staff like the traffic police.
There is no need for traffic police to be deployed on the streets in large numbers. As the self-driving cars run on their own and sense their surroundings, the need of employees controlling traffic on the road may not be of much importance.
8. Hassle free parking anywhere you go
You know the difficulty in finding a parking space on a busy day especially in big cities like London. What if the car drops you at your destination and goes on its own to find a parking space? Is it sounds awesome? Imagine that the car is coming back to pick you up at a time specified time recorded on its computer memory. Yes, the driverless technology will automate more of our daily life routine of driving.
9. Controlling pollution to an extend
Vehicle sharing or car-sharing facilities can be implemented that may reduce the emission from congested traffic. This may even lead to introducing more electric cars that can control emission problems.
Major concerns regarding the use of autonomous cars.
1. A fear about an occurrence of an accident is always there in the minds of people as the possibility of the computer crashing or malfunctioning cannot be ruled out.
2. Do we need separate roads for all the autonomous cars? Do they run along with the manually driven cars on the same path? How safe is it if both types of the cars are using the same route of travel? These questions can be answered only after successful research that need a bit more time.
3. There is less importance for drivers. We depend on drivers a lot for our day to day life. By the emergence of driverless cars on the road, a significant percentage of people in the driving profession may lose their job as even the taxis may run without a driver.
4. Hackers taking control of computer-driven technology is another cause of worry. By hacking into the system, they can use the vehicles for destructive purposes.
5. Reduce congestion on the road
Since autonomous cars utilize sensors to find a safe distance it needs to keep from the vehicle moving in front of it, the possibility of congestion may be reduced. This is supported by the fact that the sensors are more perceptive than human beings.
6. Liability of an accident
When a driverless car is met with an accident, who is accountable for it? This question seems to be an unanswered one until new laws and regulations are made with respect to the usage of autonomous cars. It appears really difficult to find out whom to blame for an accident? Is it the vehicle owner? If it is the fault of a component or software of the car, who will be liable for the accident? Will it be the owner whose responsibility is to check the condition of the car regularly or the manufacturer of the car?
The technology behind autonomous car is nearly fully developed and its positive results in its experimental stage show that the day is not so far that autonomous car becoming part of our day-to-day lifestyle.
5. English, Andrew. Accessed on 13-08-14 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/car- manufacturers/toyota/10404575/Toyotas-driverless-car.html
6. Kelly, Heather. Driverless Car tech gets serious at CES, Accessed on 12-08-14, http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/09/tech/innovation/self-driving-cars-ces/
7. Knapman, Chris, Large-scale trial of driverless cars to begin on public roads, Accessed on 11-08-14 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/10484839/Large-scale-trial-of-driverless-cars-to-begin-on-public-roads.html
8. Levine, Barry. Hey, Google: Baidu wants to keep humans in the driverless car equation, Accessed on 12-08-14 http://venturebeat.com/2014/07/25/hey-google-baidu-wants-to-keep-humans-in-the-driverless-car-equation/
9 Magee, David.Volkswagen Develops Driverless Car Accessed on 13-08-14,http://www.ibtimes.com/volkswagen-develops-driverless-car-293911
10. Mearian, Lucas. Audi tests driverless car on Florida expressway, Accessed on 12-08-14,http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9250029/Audi_tests_driverless_car_on_Florida_expressway
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