Self-driving cars have been a topic of much research, interest, and discussion in the last few years. The dream of having cars that operate without human control has been realized, and this has a number of implications. There are various forms of advanced technology that enable autonomous cars. As this technology continues to expand further, one can only imagine what cars in the future might be able to do.
The Technology That Makes It Possible
When a person drives a car, they must stay alert so that they can actively control everything that the car does. They must manually accelerate or hit the break when necessary. They must constantly make judgments about what is a safe driving speed and safe driving distance. They must understand the terrain and make considerations for different weather and road conditions. For there to be a driverless car, the car’s control system must take over all these activities. Much technology is needed for this.
The technology in cars has been advancing rapidly over the years to make driving easier and to take a bit of responsibility from the driver’s shoulders. One of the oldest advances was cruise control. Other more modern car functions that have made driving easier and safer include backup cameras, automatic parking assistance, front collision prevention, and blind spot detection.
Driverless or self-driving cars have several systems that are making autonomy real. Highly advanced sensor systems allow the car to sense everything that is going on around it. These cars must detect objects moving around them at various speeds as well as immovable barriers in their paths. This is in addition to all the internal sensors that cars already have for speed monitoring, for example. Some of the sensors needed include camera, radar, ultrasonic, and forward collision sensors.
A driverless car also needs internet of things (IoT) connectivity. Being connected to the internet allows the car to tap into cloud computing and make use of various forms of data for accurate and real-time information pertaining to traffic, maps, weather, and road surface conditions.
Finally, driverless vehicles need an extension analytical and control system that can make sense of all the data. Software algorithms are needed to analyze it and determine the right action for the car to take. The car’s control system must be able to work fast and make good decisions, for everything on the road happens so quickly.
Implications of Driverless Cars
Some of the large companies exploring this space include Tesla, Google, and Uber. Major car companies are also investing in research and development efforts to get into this new market. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are other technologies that may become crucial in the development of driverless cars. Besides being an exciting advance in automation and sensor technology, self-driving cars also have a number of foreseeable benefits.
One of the challenges with driving, in general, is that humans make mistakes. This can be through a misjudgment, distraction, or even being under stress or alcoholic influence. With a driverless car, the human factor is taken out of the equation. Although the car’s decision-making abilities are as good as its technology, once this is fine-tuned and perfected, this can be a safe alternative. The car can be programmed to make rapid decisions and evaluate complicated situations to arrive at the best judgment that minimizes impact and harm.
There are still various concerns about safety and ethics, and these are being tackled. The other channel that companies have long been exploring is increasing the level of automation without completely removing the human control factor. If you can have a car that drives itself, the possibilities for personal and commercial use are endless.