How do Autonomous Cars Work?

Not long ago, talking about a driverless vehicle seemed unreal, only possible in movies. But in the 21st century, the driverless vehicle has become part of reality.

However, although it may seem difficult to believe, since the 1940s numerous scientists and computer geniuses have carried out tests and prototypes to achieve these automotive advances, managing to develop authentic driverless cars for future and you can purchase from auto for trade.

Objects were first established on the road, so that the car could identify them and follow their path. Later, in the 80s, it was sought that cars were guided by the radar system when detecting objects. But how do they work today?

What technology do autonomous cars use?

The autonomous cars that are currently being developed are powered by complex technology made up of cameras, radars and laser object detection systems.

This set of elements makes up the eyes of the car, since thanks to them it is possible for the autonomous vehicle to generate an image of what is around it. This technology is called omnidirectional lidar, and it manages to detect objects at a distance of up to 20 meters from the vehicle.

How do autonomous cars perceive the environment?

To understand how autonomous cars work, we have to be clear about what they do with all this information.

Once the autonomous car’s omnidirectional lidar technology has detected the objects around it, it retains them in software capable of processing the situation in real time. This software is in charge of creating three-dimensional (3D) maps so that the car knows what is outside and how far away it is. In addition, it is able to identify if objects are moving, for example, in the case of a pedestrian crossing a zebra crossing.

Are autonomous cars capable of making decisions while driving?

Currently, these vehicles must still circulate under the supervision of a human being, as they may have some faults and limitations that have not yet been fully corrected.

However, during traffic, it is the vehicle that must make decisions about it. That is, he will decide when to pass another vehicle, when to increase or reduce speed, etc. All of this following a series of algorithms that the vehicle manufacturer includes in its software.

How are driverless cars aesthetically?

Autonomous cars are aesthetically the same as the rest of the vehicles, they are usually 5-seater and, although at the beginning it was dispensed with placing the steering wheel, the pedals and the gear change, later it was decided to put them again because emergency may require its use. Therefore aesthetically they are the same as traditional vehicles.

Although in a level 5 autonomous vehicle it is possible that these parts can again be removed from the bodywork as they are unnecessary.

Levels of autonomy

Although we talk about autonomous cars, these are divided into 5 levels, and it is not until the fifth level when we can talk about full autonomy.

These levels are characterized by the degree of control that the driver is allowed to have over the car. They differ in:

  • Level 0 : a car that does not have autonomy. It is the human being who drives and the car can only issue a warning.
  • Level 1 : vehicle that has some extras that make driving easier, such as cruise control.
  • Level 2 : at this level it is known as semi-autonomy, since it not only has elements that facilitate driving, but its software allows the car to stay within the traffic lane, with the driver being able to take his hands off the wheel .
  • Level 3 : controlled autonomy is developed at this level, that is, the vehicle can circulate autonomously in stable environments, but under the supervision of the driver, so that the vehicle will issue “tests” to verify that this is the case.
  • Level 4 : the autonomous car will be able to circulate without the need to be supervised by a driver, but it will only be able to do so in specific places where the car has enough information.
  • Level 5 : is the level of full autonomy. The car is ready to drive anywhere by itself without the need for supervision.

Limitations in the use of autonomous cars

Today, none of the autonomous vehicles circulates fully, as many of them still have limitations in the software and require many improvements because the responsibility of relying on an autonomous vehicle is greater.

Some of the limitations it presents is, for example, not being able to differentiate between the red and green of a traffic light, since light signals are a very complex means to detect it by the software.

They also require much more complex batteries, whose duration is long to achieve driving over long distances.

In addition, it is also necessary to adapt infrastructures and change traffic regulations to be able to take the step and see these vehicles circulate in our daily life through cities and roads.

The world is changing and with it also our way of moving, will these vehicles make our lives easier and reduce traffic accidents?

Understanding how autonomous cars work makes us more confident in these types of technologies, which are destined to become the standard in a very short time.