It is estimated that by the year 2030, there will be approximately 380 million semi, highly or fully autonomous vehicles on the roads. These vehicles are no longer a matter of if, rather a matter of when. The founder of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, claims that within a decade, self-driving autonomous cars will be as common as elevators. Below, we explore what this new technology is, how it works, as well as the pros-and-cons.
Self driving autonomous cars are vehicles designed to travel between destinations without the need for a human driver to constantly monitor the roadway. To technically qualify as "fully autonomous", a vehicle must be able to navigate without human intervention to a predetermined destination over roads that have not been adapted for its use.
Self driving cars (also called driverless cars, autonomous cars, automated cars, or robotic cars) are vehicles that can maneuver themselves without human interaction.
Driverless car technology, such as Google's "Self Driving Autonomous Car Project" are already logging more physical hours of testing on American roads than the typical American driver will do in a year.
Autonomous car technology aims to achieve:
Since the dawn of driving, the human imagination has always pushed the barrier of what is possible, including the fascination of cars that can drive themselves. Although the concept of self driving cars may seem new, there have been several publicly documented experiments to automate cars since at least the 1920s.
The very first car to publicly demonstrate the ability to drive itself is often credited to the ‘American Wonder’ built by the Houdina Radio Control Co. The car was built by the company’s founder, Francis P Houdina, who was an electrical engineer in the U.S. Army. Houdina equipped a 1925 Chandler Metropolitan Sedan with a transmitting antenna on an openly exposed back area of the car. He then operated the American Wonder from a second car that followed it with a transmitter. The radio signals operated small electric motors that directed every movement of the car. That year he publicly demonstrated this in New York City streets, traveling up Broadway and down Fifth Avenue through thick traffic.
Since then, nearly every subsequent decade led to a major advancement in the push to bring self-driving cars to the masses. Recent developments this century have brought this technology closer than ever before to be within feasible attainment for the general consumer. With both global technology giants (e.g. Google Self-Driving Car Project and Baidu Auto Brain System) and the world’s largest automotive manufacturers (e.g. Mercedes-Benz F 015 and BMW i NEXT Autonomous Vehicle) racing to be first to market with prototype demonstrations and working in conjunction with lawmakers to bring these cars to public roads, it is safe to say that world is only several years away from being able to purchase a truly self driving car.
What does "autonomous driving" really mean? Is there a difference between "autonomous" and "driverless"? Why is “driverless” a more advanced stage of “autonomous”? Questions such as these from both the general public and policy makers has prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to specify the various official levels of automation when it comes to self-driving autonomous vehicle technology.
The NHTSA has defined these levels of autonomous vehicle automation as follows:
Self driving autonomous cars use various automotive technologies to provide an effortless mode of transportation.
Providing this type of transportation requires a harmonious sychronization of advanced sensors gathering information about the surrounding environments, sophisticated algorithms processing that data and controlling the vehicles, and computational power processing it all in real time.
The following technologies are core components to self driving cars: