A self driving car, also referred to as autonomous car or driverless car, is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. They use various techniques to detect their surroundings, such as radar, laser light, GPS, odometer and computer vision. They have control systems that are capable of analyzing sensory data to distinguish between different cars on the road, which helps in planning a route to the desired destination.
The benefits of self driving cars are that, it will potentially decrease the number of road accidents and exponentially aid in the increased mobility for the elderly, disabled and children. It could also assist travelers of different tongues to stroll the city without the confusion with the local language. They can also significantly reduce the fuel consumption and human labor.
The main hurdles with the autonomous cars are predominantly of legal frameworks, authorization by the reigning government, safety and technological liabilities. The conversion of non- autonomous cars to autonomous cars is a major change and the time period needed to do is quite higher.
The modern self driving cars use the Bayesian Simultaneous localization and mapping algorithms with various other high end driving assist tools. Educator Udacity is developing an open-source software stack.
The autonomous car industry
Tesla’s autonomous driving features are ahead of others in the industry. They launched version 7.1 of the Tesla Autopilot capability as an over the air update, adding new summon features that allows the car to self- park at parking locations, without the driver in the car. Their system fails to detect pedestrians and cyclists, making it a liability.
Technological giant Google on 2012 announced that their self driving car had completed over 500,000 km accident free, typically having about a dozen cars on the road at any given time and run various prototypes to perfect their models. As of December 2016, Alphabet announced that their autonomous car technology would be spun-off to a new company called Waymo.
Uber set up an Advanced Technological Center in Pittsburgh. Its mission, to make self driving ubers a reality. Currently, Uber is now running a pilot program, where riders can get matched up with a self-driving uber car, while requesting uberX and get access to the autonomous cars. Safety drivers will be available up front to avoid any liabilities. They have self- proclaimed that they are the first ones to do such autonomous car service in Pittsburgh.
Volvo is forming a new partnership with Autoliv, called Zenuity, with the focus of developing self driving automotive software. The goal is to get to the point where they can field self driving cars for sale, based on Nvidia’s Drive PX in car AI computing platform, by their target year 2021.
Faraday Future, a tech company based in Nevada, debuted their ultra- fast self driving sports car at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The car is almost fully autonomous driving with high features and a smart phone docking system in the center of the steering wheel, which is the face of the future.
As one of the earlier models to feature self driving capabilities, the BMW 750i xDrive tech is more of a driving aid system than full autonomous commuting. It has lane departure warning, automatic breaking system and Active Cruise Control. Other models with driving aid systems are Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG, Infiniti Q50s, Robby the Audi RS7 piloted driving concept car, Acura RLX Sedan self-driving prototype AND Lexus GS 450h concept.
No one can predict exactly what the future holds for autonomous cars. But it is safe to safe that they have enormous potential to further its mission and improve our society for good.