Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Autonomous cars will come sooner or later

By Vaseline May27,2024

Few of us know what the future of the car will look like, but it is certain that the way we get from A to B will require more technology as systems in the car become more complex over time.

In the mid-20th century, there were those who believed that the 21st century would bring flying cars, and with the exception of a few inventions, that prediction has fallen apart.

However, the next biggest talking point in the automotive industry is self-driving cars, also known as autonomous vehicles. The car market may be seeing a change in the way cars are driven, but what we haven’t seen yet are cars that drive completely unassisted – so far it seems like.

This week the UK government announced the Automated Vehicles Act, which will make it within the law to use a self-driving car on our roads, with car manufacturers, insurers or software makers held responsible in the unfortunate event of an accident.

But what exactly is an autonomous car and how do they work? Here’s a list of things you need to know about them before we see them on our roads.

What is an autonomous car?

Renault testing
A Renault Zoe being tested with level 5 autonomy. (Credit: PA – Renault Tornado project)

An autonomous car – or self-driving car, as it is also known – is essentially a vehicle that has no human input and relies on monitors, cameras, satellites and sensors to get it to where its owner or passengers want to go .

Since the early 2000s, driverless car technology has been on the rise, with Mercedes one of the first carmakers to offer a car with radar-based cruise control that scans the road ahead, monitors the vehicle in front and automatically brakes if the vehicle in front slows down before accelerating again when this is obvious.

Tesla then introduced the AutoPilot feature on its cars, which allows the vehicle to drive itself on highways, provided the driver consistently keeps their hand on the wheel.

There are different driving levels of autonomy

Car without driver
Driverless car (Credit: Philip Toscano/PA)

You might think that a self-driving car is just what it says on the tin, but in reality there are as many as five different levels of autonomy when it comes to vehicles.

Every car until Tesla entered the UK car market was level zero without driving automation, and features such as ABS, cruise control and blind spot warning fall into this category because they assist the driver, but that person is still 100 percent in control.

Level one concerns cars with driver assistance systems with adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance. Level two is partial driving automation where the driver can release steering, braking and acceleration as long as he is engaged and aware of what is happening around him and continuously monitors the vehicle.

Level three has not yet been widely adopted in the automotive market, but will enable automation functions once the driver allows the systems to take over. Level four allows the car to intervene in the event of a fault without necessarily involving the occupants. Level five is the highest level of self-driving technology, requiring no human intervention whatsoever.

What is the Automated Vehicles Act?

Autonomous Nissan project
Driverless Nissan Leaf is tested. (Credit: PA – ServCity)

The Automated Vehicles Act makes it possible to use technology to drive vehicles safely on British roads. It aims to help the country become the leader in self-driving technology and is believed to help unlock an industry worth an estimated £42 billion and create 38,000 jobs by 2035.

Automated vehicles are expected to improve road safety by reducing human errors, which are responsible for 88 percent of all road accidents. Additionally, the law requires self-driving vehicles to achieve a level of safety and capability compared to human input to ensure the cars are just as capable and must pass very stringent safety tests before being allowed on the road. In theory, it should dramatically reduce deaths, drunk driving, speeding, fatigue and inattention.

How do self-driving cars work?

A self-driving car uses sensors, cameras and software to keep it in line with the road. (FATHER)

Self-driving cars rely on actuators, sensors, monitors, machine learning systems and processors. In fact, it’s as if the vehicles have their own human brain to input information from the road.

There are sensors spread across different parts of the car. Radars monitor the position of nearby vehicles, video cameras detect traffic lights, read road signs, track other vehicles and search for pedestrians.

There are also lidar sensors that reflect light onto the car’s surroundings to measure distances, detect road edges and identify lane markings. The wheels contain ultrasonic sensors that also detect curbs and other objects when parking.

Software then processes all the sensory input and works out a route before sending instructions to the vehicle’s actuators, which control acceleration, braking and steering inputs.

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