About Autonomous Vehicles [A Complete Guide]

About Autonomous Vehicles [A Complete Guide]

A self-driving car, also known as an autonomous car is driver-less or robo-cars. They are fully automated and need little or no human input.

It has the ability to sense environmental changes and drive accordingly.

There is a combination of radars and GPS systems that help in its overall sensory information.

Through this, it identifies appropriate navigation paths, obstacles, and relevant signage.

The word autonomous was given preference when defining self-driving cars since it is currently already in widespread use.

Even though, automated is a better word since it not only connotes the perfect definition of these cars, it’s also user friendly.

Autonomous connotes acting alone but self-driving cars currently do not have that feature in use since they need a human to for selecting routes and destinations.

There are currently 5 levels for autonomous cars

WHO MANUFACTURES THESE

There are numerous autonomous vehicle organizations, but some stand out more than others, due to their ongoing work and based on consolidated empirical data:

  1. WAYMO
    vehicles. This is measured by the number of kilometres driven (32 million in the real world and more than 16 billion in simulation) and the advancement and sophistication in its technology. WAYMO is enabled to not only detect Lidar and other frequencies but also has microphones to detect sirens from emergency vehicles and help in autonomous functionality.

    More than that, prototype testing of driverless SAE Autonomy Level 5 vehicles is also taking place currently.
  2. GM CRUISE
    General Motors’ Cruise has the world’s second-largest producer of autonomous vehicles. Some of their vehicles look like standard Chevrolet Bolt hatchbacks, but don’t let them fool you; they’re perfectly designed and customized for robot driving.

    General motors 11-year history has given them the edge in making their name in the world of autonomous vehicles. Even though more modern companies like Apple, are now in this field, they have little or no experience in the world of artificial intelligence.
  3. ARGO AI
    Ford Motor Company’s Argo AI startup has invested billions and is currently testing hundreds of vehicles in different states of USA.

    The business has also attracted a $2.6 billion investment from the world’s largest automaker, Volkswagen. Unlike any other company, Ford and VV want Argo AI to make fleet-based vehicles for others, vehicles such as delivery trucks and more.
  4. TESLA
    Even though we expect Tesla to be #1 in the autonomous vehicles manufacturing, as time rapidly marches on, however, it appears this boast may well be another in a long line of unkept promises from Musk. The company currently has more than 600,000 Tesla production vehicles on global roads. It has collectively driven more than 3.2 billion kilometres (2 billion miles). However, Musk has promised fully autonomous (SAE Level 5) Tesla on the road by the end of 2020
  5. BAIDU
    Baidu is a company from china, although it branched out from a search engine, pretty much like Google’s WAYMO, it has quickly climbed up the ladder of autonomous vehicles.

    Baidu currently has more than 300 autonomous test vehicles on Chinese roads having driven more than 3 million kilometres (1.8 million miles) in 23 cities.

Challenges autonomous cars will have to face

Signals and Frequencies

What happens when in the next 20 years or so, masses of autonomous cars roam the streets? Will their frequencies and lidar signals overlap and incidents may take place?

Even though this might be a serious problem, the range-dependent overlap between the laser beam and the receiver field of view of lidar can be determined experimentally and we are certain that a way forward will be paved.

Laws and Regulations

What will happen when cars will have to cross state borders?

Will the rules be different? How will they be evaluated?

How will it be known if some car is programmed for malicious activities?

Currently, laws have already been established for autonomous vehicles (see our section of laws and regulations) in various states of the United States of America, most of Europe and some of Asia.

We are certain once this technology hits the road, most governments will draft laws in accordance.

Accidents

What will happen if a car runs over someone like in the first Tesla trial?

Who will be held responsible?

Will it be the manufacturer who was supposed to program the car for such instances or will it be the passenger who couldn’t help since he had no steering wheel in hand?

Even though it is true that the manufacturer will be put through an emotional burden, we expect technology to be advanced enough for incidents like these to have almost no scope.

Artificial and Emotional Intelligence

Until now we have had a pat on the backs with how advanced and effective Artificial Intelligence has been.

But can it replace emotional intelligence?

What about the instances when a driver looks over to the other and subtle cues or head nods determine what he’s going to do next, will a robot car be able to compete with that?

We are hoping that once roads are filled with autonomous cars, emotional intelligence won’t be needed for driving.

However, it is true that the transition of drivers handing their power over to robots will be rough but needed.

Impact on society

A pat on the back to companies who are focusing their effort on producing autonomous trucks.

These heavy vehicles need to be reliable and what better way than to make them completely devoid of human errors. 

It is said by driving experts that through this, human errors, drunk driving and other forms of distracted or aggressive driving could be significantly reduced. If 90% of cars in the US became automated, it is estimated to save 25000 lives. 

Automated cars could not only help in reducing labour costs but also relive passengers from navigating.

This could replace all those hours driving with something a lot more constructive or maybe even some leisure time.

It would also alleviate the stress of driving home from work, prevent occupants from being distracted or tired during driving and prevent tons of accidents.

This could also enable the young, elderly and disabled people to be more independent in terms of mobility.

No steering wheel would mean a lot more flexibility, luxury and of course, ease, especially in motorhome vehicles.

Additional advantages could include higher speed limits;smoother rides; and increased roadway capacity; and minimized traffic congestion, due to decreased need for safety gaps and higher speeds.

A study conducted found that drivers do not trust automated-parking technology even though it is estimated that 81% drivers hit the curb when self-parking.

Automated vehicles would not only save a lot of parking space but also the time and effort in self-parking.

This as well as the potentially estimated reduced need for road space because of automated vehicles, this could free up large amounts of land which can then be recreated into parks and benefit healthier lifestyles.

However, autonomous cars are not only luxurious and have a dashing interior; their initial price is really cheap, making them relatively affordable in the first place. 

They are enabled to absorb shock and prevent injury to humans. They have no steering wheel, making the car a lot more spacious.

Despite the fact autonomous cars aren’t yet customized for sports, they are able to race like a pro!

The claimed to be the world fastest petrol vehicle, Bugatti Chiron can go from 0mph to 60mph in just about 2.3s. Tesla model Sp100D comes somewhere close to that figure as well. 

Three practices were highlighted: vehicle automation, vehicle electrification and carpooling.

It was estimated that if these three practices were adopted correctly, they would unleash the unbelieving potential of the autonomous world.

They would not only reduce traffic congestion by 30% but improve pedestrian walkability and lifestyle.

As mentioned above, free up a lot of space for better uses and moreover, reduce urban CO2 emissions by 80% worldwide!

Human factors and moral issues

One of the many factors as to why autonomous cars haven’t still been launched is the difficulty to sense unpredicted shifts in the environment, such as pedestrians or animals.

Human drivers face the challenge of understanding intentions of other drivers with eye contact, drivers using AI (artificial intelligence, by which these cars are driven) may not have the same feasibility and such unpredictable circumstances may result in accidents.  

As automated vehicles step into this world, it is impossible for various ethical issues to not rise.

These include; the moral responsibility, the decision an automated car will have to make seconds before a crash and the criminal responsibility for crashes and breaches of the law.

A lot of data is to be provided to robots for them to function perfectly. In the case of automated vehicles, these might mean unconsented video footage and mass surveillance thus raising a lot of privacy issues.

Robots taking over yet another job could mean the potential for massive job losses and unemployment among drivers that might include de-skilling and loss of independence by vehicle users.

There might be a significant exposure to hacking and malware and since all this information will be in the hands of some vehicle producers, the chances are increased tenfold with the probable potential to destroy existing occupations and industries

There also arises a question of how these robot vehicles are going to be programmed in an emergency situation.

This puts in questions the moral reliability of the manufacturer or worker who is ultimately supposed to put in these action codes.

This is perfectly described in an ethical experiment; the trolley problem.

The conductor of the trolley has the choice of either running over five people if it stays on its designated track or derails and kill only one person. Regardless, this continues to be a moral dilemma and demands risk calculations such as how close is the car allowed to drive on a bike lane or the very millisecond when a car needs to stop at a traffic light.

Ultimately, it is selfish to delay the production of automated cars since not only are they the future, they’re also predicted to save many lives and help the overall lifestyle.

Regulation and legalisation

In the United States, most vehicle codes do not prohibit automated vehicles as of 2012.  

By 2016, seven states (Nevada, California, Florida, Michigan, Hawaii, Washington, and Tennessee), along with the District of Columbia, have passed laws in accordance with automated vehicles.

However, the first fatal incident caused by the tesla autopilot drive has caused many governments to doubt this technology. 

Regulation (EU) 2019/2144 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 November

2019 approved the rules regarding automated vehicles. The rule allows all self-driving cars up to Level 5, which means full autonomy on all roads and under any conditions.

However, this law is only to be followed after 2022.

The South Korean government seemed hesitant in allowing automated vehicles to take the streets as seen in 2017. 

However, we are confident that once this technology hits the roads permanently, most governments will approve and bend their laws.

The future of autonomous cars

Self-driving cars work on Artificial Intelligence.

2010 was the greatest year for AI; we have seen it make big jumps in advancements which have led us to believe that 2020 might just be the year we see fully automated cars in. 

However, most of the work in terms of making this possible is in having lots of data; billions of video footage of various instances for the program to get the hang of driving and is actually able to interpret and take fully understood decisions. 

But collecting data might turn out to be very difficult.

More data means the car will have lots of incidents to form a hypothesis and take a decision.

However, some instances such as a car crash or snow on the road might cause some trouble since there won’t be a lot of footage for that particular incident; this might lead to crappy decisions taken by the car.

Manufacturers have tried to get around this situation a lot. They have specifically simulated or engineered instances so that the car is able to store footage and take reasonable and reliable decisions.

However, there is no denying that self-driving car maybe what we all need. Regardless of the contradicting views on it.

There might just be an internet cold war by the conflicting views of major magazines such as The Forbes: “Full Self-Driving Cars Are Still A Long Way Off – Here’s Why” and The Guardian: “Self-driving cars could be allowed on UK motorways next year”.

The Guardian is really anticipating autonomous cars to be the future.  

Not only specialized courses are being offered by the University of Toronto, but many people are also learning AI (Artificial Intelligence) just for these cars! Looks like we might just see flying cars in 2050!

References

https://www.synopsys.com/automotive/what-is-autonomous-car.html

https://www.mes-insights.com/5-top-autonomous-vehicle-companies-to-watch-in-2020-a-910825/

https://www.coursera.org/specializations/self-driving-cars mous-cars-five-reasons-they-still-arent-on-our-roads-143316

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/aug/18/self-driving-cars-allowed-motorways-industryrisk

https://autovistagroup.com/news-and-insights/state-autonomous-legislationeurope#:~:text=The%20regulation%20of%20autonomous%2Ddriving,roads%20and%20under% 20any%20conditions.  

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Auther:

Morten Pradsgaard

Morten has been working with technology, IoT and electronics for over a decade. His passion for technology is reflected into this blog to give you relevant and correct information.

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