Imagine this: You go to the Mall on a busy Saturday afternoon. The parking lot is packed and the only spaces available feel like a mile away, and since your wearing really cute shoes the idea of walking a mile is out of the question. BUT you don’t have to worry about that. Your car will drop you off at the door, park itself…and then pick you back up when you beckon. Sounds great right? The possibility of this becoming a reality is not so far off. Engineers have been working on the idea of self-driving vehicles for decades and have already implemented some of the self-driving features into the cars you drive today. Hello ABS Brakes, Active Park Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Here’s a quick lesson on how Autonomous Cars work:
Radar Sensors: Placed on the front and rear of the vehicle, they monitor your distance from other vehicles. (These sensors are already used in Adaptive Cruise Control.
Video Cameras: Attached to the front of the vehicle detects changing traffic lights, road signs, other vehicles as well as pedestrians or objects in road.
Lidar: by bouncing pulses of light off of surroundings, the Lidar can effectively identify objects, or road markings.
GPS: reads tachometers, altimeters and gyroscopes to detect your exact positioning in relation to other GPS systems.
Ultrasonic Sensors: Measure curbs and objects close to bottom of car (used when parking).
Central Computer: All of the above sensors placed around the vehicle report to the the Central Computer which in turn manipulates the steering, accelerator and brakes.
Why Do we need Self-Driving Cars? Why are they necessary? Of course when you think of a self driving car, your first thought probably is…”YES! no more driving!”. And your right. One of the benefits of a self-driving car is that the driver no longer has to be be exhausted once arriving to his/her location. With autonomous cars, the driver is free to read, sleep, or watch a movie while the car drives itself. Another benefit has to do with the number of accidents that occur because of human error. In fact out of the 5.5 million crashes that happen in the US ever year alone, 81% of those crashes are caused by human error. Because of Autonomous cars’ self-driving ability and radar sensors, they can predict accidents long before human’s possibly could.
Are Self-Driving cars even legal? The Answer is Yes and NO. There are only 5 states currently even allow testing of Autonomous vehicles. However, that number increases every year.
Shockingly FUN FACT: Google has had self-driving vehicles on the roads for years! Scary thought right? Ever seen one of those Google Maps vehicles? Chances are that the humans in those vehicles are not driving. Google Cars have successfully driven 700,000 miles OR 47 years accident free. Thats pretty incredible.
What are the Con’s of self-driving vehicles? Fewer Jobs for truck drivers or those involved in transportation. Software could be hacked meaning you car could become a driving weapon. ZERO Privacy for owner since it relays completely on GPS.
PROS? Less Commuting time. Your vehicle will already know the fastest route based on traffic date and light signals. Higher Speed Limits because autonomous cars’ reaction time is quicker than humans. Also, there is a chance of Insurance Premiums dropping because the risk of accident will be far less.
There are still several kinks to workout. For example, self-driving cars can NOT be used in the rain, snow and cannot dependably react to traffic signals. Not to mention you would have to be a billionaire to afford it. Though Autonomous Vehicles being available to the public is still several years away, the idea is fascinating. Several car brands have already taken the “wheel” so to speak, in creating their own autonomous vehicles. Those brands include Audi and Lexus among others.