The Future of Autonomous Cars

Contributed content / By Tayaba Aslam / 11 May 2020

Autonomous vehicles will revolutionize commuting and transport. But we are unsure if autonomous vehicles will really work. Use this article to find out everything you need to know about autonomous vehicles.

Technology can seem mind-blowing. At one time, driverless cars would have seemed simply unbelievable. Even now, people are trying to figure out if the widespread application of autonomous cars is a pipe dream or a likelihood.

In this article, we explore the future autonomous cars from different perspectives. Read the article to find out when you should expect to share the road with autonomous cars.

Autonomous Cars: The Basics

The history autonomous cars dates back to the early 1900s. In 1939, General Motors exhibited in New York, presenting a model of an autonomous vehicle for the future. The idea was to reduce traffic on the roads with vast suburbs and automated highways. Since then, autonomous cars have always been the talk of the town. Fast forward a century later, we are still discussing the possibility and potential of autonomous cars.

Autonomous cars, as the name suggests, are driverless vehicles that do not require external control. Instead, the vehicles come with different software and sensors to navigate and control. For now, we don’t have many autonomous cars on the roads. However, various companies are working the technology, including Nissan, Uber, General Motors, Ford, Mercedes, Tesla, and Google, among others.

basics of autonomous cars

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The vehicles are categorized into different groups according to their level of autonomy.

  • Level 0: The driver controls all the systems.
  • Level 1: Some systems, one at a time, are controlled by the car, such as automatic braking and cruise control.
  • Level 2: The car control two automated functions simultaneously, such as steering and acceleration. However, the car requires human control for safety.
  • Level 3: The car manages all critical functions in certain conditions. However, the driver is required to take control when needed.
  • Level 4: The car is capable of running autonomously in most scenarios.
  • Level 5: The car is completely autonomous in all scenarios.

The basics of autonomous cars suggest that they will grow and improve over time.

The Technology Behind Autonomous Cars

Various technologies will play a key role in making driverless cars a reality. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will be the center of autonomous vehicles. Before AI completely revolutionizes the role of drivers, it is trying to gain the confidence of manufacturers, regulators, and users. The technology will help avoid human errors by analyzing data across its sensors.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will sync vehicles with traffic signals and guide vehicles according to varying road scenarios. The technology will play a key role in activating emergency controls of autonomous vehicles, monitoring of blind spots, and more.

Artificial intelligence will prove to be a star technology, drastically reducing road accidents. Manufacturers are highlighting the significance of autonomous cars in saving lives otherwise lost in road crashes. General Motors released a report claiming that over 1.25 million people die every year in road accidents. Autonomous cars will eliminate human error, thus saving 1.25 million lives annually.

Autonomous cars will have radar sensors dotted around the vehicle. The sensors will detect large objects around the vehicle. Similarly, autonomous vehicles will have video cameras at the wheel-arch level and between the front windscreen and the rear-view mirror. The cameras will identify traffic signals and signs, as well as monitor various obstacles on the road.

technology behind autonomous cars

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The ultrasonic sensors, found at the bumper level, will detect the position of nearby vehicles and curbs while parking. The lidar sensors will detect the lane markings and road edges. The processing computer, with graphical processors, processing stations, and multi-core computers, will analyze the data from different sensors to control braking, steering, and acceleration.

Automobile manufacturers are working to make autonomous cars a reality, with flawless functionality. The technology has improved over the years, but has it improved enough to launch driverless cars on the roads?

Will Autonomous Cars Hit the Roads Anytime Soon?

Had everything went according to the plans, we would already be driving autonomous cars. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as planned. It is, however, better that the technology is tested over and over again before it launches for the masses.

Co-founder and CEO of Aurora, Chris Urmson, says:

“We are basically allowing the car to practice up in the cloud instead of on the road. And at the end of the day, the training that happens online turns into better and better performance offline.”

One of the major hurdles in launching autonomous cars is that the vehicles cannot be tested on the roads. Instead, the vehicles are tested in virtual environments and will launch once all potential loopholes and scenarios are tested and resolved.

Are autonomous cars hitting anytime soon? No.

The Launch of Autonomous Driving Technology

Autonomous vehicles will launch in different phases, varying with the level of autonomy. Driverless cars of Level 5, with complete autonomy, will not hit the roads for another couple of decades. However, Level 4 autonomous cars will be seen moving on the roads within the next four to five years.

Autonomous cars are destined to come. Simply, they are the future. But, sadly, we have to wait at least three decades before traveling in driverless vehicles.

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