Auto industry leaders are exploring and testing the possibility of making driverless vehicles a reality. The driving force behind this investment is to produce automobiles that ensure road safety. Every year, road accidents claim millions of lives, and about 90% of accidents are caused by human error; thus, removing the human factor can be a solution to this real-world problem.
How Do Driverless Cars Work?
Technology is the main driver behind a driverless car, enabling it to obey traffic rules and respond to unexpected circumstances within a fraction of a second. The minimum safety level for autonomous vehicles is that it should function better than the average human driver. Built-in sensors and cameras analyse the surroundings and make decisions. Automakers use their own specific technologies but share these common parts:
The GPS in cars functions in much the same way as it does in your phone. With the GPS in your phone, you tell it where you want to go, and it gives you directions to get you there. With GPS in cars, on the other hand, you tell it where you want to go, and it will bring you there.
With the GPS technology, you will also be presented with various route options, and it's up to you to choose the best or shortest one to your destination.
Autonomous cars use sensors for navigation and perception of things without human input. Usually, there is a combination of LADAR, radar, and cameras to see obstacles like buildings, guardrails, road traffic, pedestrians, indicators, and even road markers and signs.
The primary function of LADAR (laser detection and ranging) is sending invisible lasers around the car and judge the nature of objects and how far these are from the vehicle. This technology is not yet fully developed and usually used in tandem with a radar especially in wet, rainy, or snowy weather.
3-Onboard Computers and Software
Self-driving cars depend mainly on cloud computing and electronic networks for the processing of data collected from the GPS and sensors. The AI software in it continues to learn and make timely decisions. Here, it is worth mentioning that computers in driverless cars are much advanced than computers in ordinary human-driven vehicles. Therefore, the networking in these should also be comprehensive to analyse massive data in a split second.
Data learning and algorithms are two factors behind the safe and successful operation of driverless cars. Failure of algorithm or any delay in data collection may result in fatal accidents.
Pros and Cons of Driverless Cars
The need for driverless cars are all the more emphasised in our current COVID-19 situation. These vehicles would have been perfect for transporting goods and commodities and other purposes that require limited human encounters. That would be one of its advantages. Let’s delve deeper to the other pros and cons of self-driving cars.
- Driverless cars will serve multiple purposes, like conveying cargo from point A to point B and transporting people.
- They are programmed to follow traffic rules to the letter.
- They offer better road journey and safety.
- Their technologies are more advanced than most vehicles.
- They are convenient for those who cannot drive, elderly, and persons with disabilities.
- They will help reduce accidents, injuries, and deaths on the road.
- Their system is free of driver distractions, fatigue, and road rage.
- They react faster and more consistently than humans.
- With all the technology packed in a driverless car, it would be costlier than ordinary cars.
- Its wide adoption may cause over a hundred thousand truck drivers to lose their jobs.
- It will close down related businesses, like refueling stations and roadhouses.
- There are legal questions that need threshing out, like ‘Who is liable to damages when two self-driven cars figure in an accident?’
- Road infrastructure may need to be redesigned and rebuilt to accommodate these vehicles.
- There’s also an ethical issue about allowing a machine to make life-and-death choices. When faced with a certain situation, a driverless vehicle would have to make a decision that could endanger its passenger or a pedestrian. Would that be ethical?
Driverless Car Technology in Australia
Except for testing purpose, driverless cars are not yet on the roads in Australia because roadworthy certification is necessary for a vehicle. Driverless cars are still a young technology, and the existing laws may need to be amended first before these fully-automated cars be allowed on the roads. In our other article about driverless vehicles, we have discussed the possible applications of this new technology in public transports, cargo conveyance in factory settings, and similar purposes.
While some states have laws for automated vehicles, these laws are not crafted around fully-driverless cars. Currently, however, many vehicles are already equipped with driver-assistive technologies, allowing minimal human involvement in some systems and functions.
Auto brands like Audi, BMW, Ford-VW, GM, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, to name a few, have heavily invested in the R&D of autonomous vehicles. Big names in the tech and telecom industry, like Apple, Cisco, Google, Huawei, NVIDIA, and auto suppliers like Bosch, Continental AG, and Magna are all in this race, too.
These endeavors indicate one thing – the imminent launch of self-driving vehicles.
Soon, driverless vehicles will rule the highways, changing the way we live, work, and move around.
Could this be the disruptive innovation that we have long waited for in the auto industry? It could well be. The commercialisation of driverless cars will no doubt change road and traffic systems, render drivers obsolete, and revolutionise the auto industry as we know it.
It will bring unlimited opportunities but, at the same time, also cause serious concerns and issues. One thing is sure, though; we can’t stop this technology from arriving, if it hasn’t yet. It’s just a matter of time.
Stay tuned for more about autonomous vehicles and other updates about cars and car parts!