The comfort of traveling without tension
Along with the advancement of technology, it can be seen how different industries seek for their products to imitate human capabilities. In this sense, the automotive universe has achieved notable progress in recent years. What before could only be part of a futuristic scenario, today is a reality. Thus, not only have vehicles been developed that require minimal assistance from the driver to function, but they are also part of daily life in many countries.
On the other hand, although in recent years there has been a boom in these private cars, the reality is that it is a development that has been working on for a long time. In fact, already in 2004, some tests could be observed in which renowned universities and institutions participated. On the other hand, what seemed to be isolated developments of a small sector, today have big brands behind them. Factories such as Audi, BMW, Toyota, and Volkswagen, among others, are exploring this field with the intention of betting heavily in the coming years.
In this sense, how these autonomous driving vehicles work, they are based on camera and sensor technology. These allow us to recognize and analyze the environment to later make a decision. On the other hand, this technology that makes the vehicle independent from the driver still has the great challenge of generating trust in society. Thus, although a large number of vehicles already have advanced systems such as hands-free driving on certain routes and other driver assistance, full autonomy is not yet possible.
What are the levels of autonomy that the vehicles present?
As a guide and in order to be able to classify this type of vehicle, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) established certain levels of autonomous driving. From 0 to number 5, these establish the independence of the car in relation to the driver. In turn, this parameter also helps to leave behind those beliefs that autonomous driving vehicles drive themselves completely and do not require any manual assistance.
From level 0 to level 2 the driver is in charge of all functions of the car. However, technology and driving assistants are present. For example, among some of these assists, at level 1 adaptive cruise control is present to maintain speed. On the other hand, at level 3 the driver may not necessarily be in control of the vehicle. In this same line, the capacities advance at level 4, so that here the car has high autonomy and there is no need for the driver to carry out any action. Nevertheless, the limitation of this level falls on the scenario. This means that they are only autonomous in certain areas depending on geolocation and other developments.
Finally, level 5 is the maximum independence between the driver and the vehicle. It can circulate on any route and there is no need for a driver to intervene, not even be alert. This development has not yet materialized in a massive way, although companies like Tesla are working on it. In other matters, the level of driving automation present in the largest number of cars today is 2. However, in some countries like the United States, there are an interesting number of vehicles with level 3 autonomy on the streets.
How “self-driving” cars work
Although in the first instance the way in which these vehicles work may be somewhat complex, it can be said that in broad strokes they capture the characteristics of the environment in order to make decisions later. This way of acting is based on artificial intelligence by using different cameras and sensors that allow it to collect that information.
For example, there are usually cameras on the windshield, ultrasonic sensors in the rear and front bumpers, long and short-range radars, and other elements. Likewise, the technology called LIDAR is a widely used device in these vehicles. It consists of a high-precision laser that allows distances to be measured using resources such as seismology, geology, and atmospheric physics.
After merging the data collected in real-time through the sensors, the vehicle is in charge of predicting situations. Thus, finally, the control system makes decisions through commands influencing the direction and braking of the car.
What are the leading brands in this technology?
Currently, it is not new to say that Tesla has achieved spectacular developments regarding autonomous driving vehicles. In fact, it is recognized as the company that generates the most confidence in this type of car. It managed to design an autopilot that guarantees functions such as accelerating, braking, and turning without the need for manual assistance. However, other brands and even some startups are also targeting this field.
One of these factories is Honda, which has also developed vehicles that also allow issues such as acceleration, braking, and steering to be neglected. In addition, it has the possibility of automatically following a vehicle that is ahead and in the same lane. On the other hand, Toyota is a company that also invested large sums of money in this technology. Even this year it announced a partnership with Tesla through Woven Planet, one of its divisions.
Thus, the outlook seems promising for this type of vehicle that becomes partially independent of the driver. However, we may still have to wait a few years for the idea of Tier 5 cars to come to fruition. That is, those that do not require any type of control or human attention.