Self driving technology is something that you are likely to hear a lot about in the future; if you haven’t already. This technology allows cars to become autonomous or to essentially drive themselves. Self driving cars use a number of sensors, radar, cameras and artificial intelligence in order to travel from one destination to another without a human driver.
There are a number of automotive companies that are now incorporating self driving technology into their vehicles. In fact, every single automobile manufacturer in the world has at least considered this technology in their vehicles. Those that are currently developing or testing this technology include BMW, General Motors, Ford, Audi, Tesla, Waymo, Volvo, Volkswagen and a few others. Many high end car manufacturers have begun developing self driving vehicles, known as super cars, that are being sold for as much as millions of dollars per automobile. Google has conducted a test of self driving cars that include models from Audi and Toyota. These two models got more than 100,000 miles of California streets under them during testing.
Self driving technology incorporates a number of different levels of automation. The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lays out six different levels. Levels start at zero and run through five. Zero is where humans do the actual driving and use assistive technology. Five is a completely self driving vehicle.
Level two of automation provides an advanced driver assistance system that helps the driver when braking or steering, but unlike level one, this system aids the driver with both tasks at the same time. The driver is behind the steering wheel and continues to act as the driver, but the system helps with the actual driving and braking of the vehicle.
The self driving technology behind level three automated driving systems is capable of performing all of the tasks of driving and even parking the vehicle. Human drivers are ready to take control of the vehicle when it is parked but the car can park itself.
In level four, the ADS can perform all of the essential driving tasks related to operating a vehicle. It can also monitor the environment around the vehicle to watch for certain situations, such as someone running into the road or a vehicle stopping in front of the self driving car. The ADS in level four is sophisticated enough that human drivers do not necessarily need to pay strict attention during the entire trip.
The self driving technology behind a level five ADS provides all of the essential driving tasks. A human driver is not needed at all and can even sit in the backseat for the duration of the trip. Humans are essentially considered nothing more than passengers in these vehicles and are neither needed or expected to operate the vehicle at any time.
Self driving technology relies heavily on artificial intelligence. Developers of vehicles with self driving capabilities use data from a number of image recognition systems. Machine learning and neural networks are also used to build the system that actually drives the car. Neural networks are needed to identify patterns in the data that is fed to the AI system. This is then fed to machine learning algorithms. Data helps the self driving vehicles to identify whenever there are humans, trees, street signs or other things in their direct driving environment.
The theory surrounding self driving technology is that with cars that are autonomous, traffic would flow more smoothly. Fully automated cars allow occupants to do other things while on their commute. For instance, someone could finish up work while they are actually driving to work. Those who are not able to drive because of a disability could actually enjoy getting themselves to and from various places because their car would do all of the driving work. Many believe that self driving vehicles can help to prevent collisions on the roadways and help to improve the economy in a number of different ways.
There have been a number of autonomous trucks that have been tested throughout Europe and in the United States. These trucks allow their drivers to use an autopilot feature over quite long distances. This allows the driver to rest or to handle other tasks that would otherwise be impossible to do while driving. These tests show that autonomous trucks can improve overall driver safety as well as fuel efficiency, much like putting a car on cruise control while driving down a long stretch of highway or interstate. The speed of the autonomous vehicle does not change unless needed so there is a much higher level of fuel efficiency.
As with any relatively new technology, there are going to be downsides, at least from some perspectives. Many feel that riding in a vehicle that does not have a human at the steering wheel is just too much to handle. They find it unnerving to be sitting in a car that is driving itself. As self driving technologies are improved upon however, and as they become more mainstream, experts believe that these feelings will change and that many consumers will look forward to the day when they can travel from point A to point B without sitting behind the wheel of their car.
Autonomous technology has definitely improved over the past few years but there are more improvements that can follow. Cars that drive themselves must learn to identify everything in their path. This includes pedestrians as well as animals, litter and other things that could happen to find themselves on their roadways. Tunnels can also cause issues as they can interfere with the autonomous vehicle’s GPS system. Construction and even emergency vehicles coming up behind an autonomous vehicle can all cause issues, although development is underway to correct many of these shortcomings. Of course, if and when these vehicles crash or hit something on the roadways, the question of liability comes to light. Lawmakers are tasked with determining who will be responsible for an autonomous vehicle if it causes an accident or is involved in any such issue while on the road. Many feel that perhaps the software that runs this autonomous technology could potentially be hacked, causing even more issues.
Developers have been working on driverless technology for many years. The invention of antilock brakes and cruise control are both part of this ongoing development. Features such as stability control, lane shift warnings and others are all part of this technology as well as automatic emergency brakes and rearview video cameras. So what does this mean for the future of self driving technology? While the technology has certainly grown over the past few decades, fully automated cars and trucks may not be available to the average consumer for quite some time. In the United States, testing is being done to ensure that the technology behind driverless cars is safe. On most roadways, these vehicles are not yet legal, as testing continues in their safety. Nevada was the first jurisdiction in the world that allowed self driving cars to be tested on public roads in 2011. Since then, California, Ohio, Florida and Washington, D.C. have followed suit. However, these states are merely allowing these driverless cars to be tested on the roadways. They have not yet taken action that will allow them to be driven by consumers, or not driven by consumers in this case, on public roadways.
The history of self driving technology actually goes back centuries. In 1478, long before the first human powered automobile was even developed, Leonardo da Vince designed a prototype that would come to be the first self driving car in history. This prototype was designed to be a self propelled robot. The robot was powered by springs and included programmable steering that allowed it to run a preset course. Of course, centuries later, driverless technology is much more advanced and complex than even da Vinci could have predicted. It stands to reason that as technology changes every day, self driving technology will continue to improve and evolve. While there is not way to know for certain right now when fully automated vehicles will be on the roadways, it is not at all far fetched to believe that some day in the not so distant future, the roads will be filled with driverless cars and trucks.