Today there are already autonomous vehicles that can drive completely on their own without anyone driving them. Some retain the figure of the driver and incorporate the option to set them to automatic mode, others simply don't even have a steering wheel. Even so, some don't agree with the incorporation of these cars, mostly due to moral and ethical implications. But still, there's no doubt that technology continues to advance to a level that even we're unable to keep up with.
One thing is for sure, regardless if we agree or not at the moment, autonomous vehicles are here to stay. Probably in the future, it'll be all we see, just as it has been the case with all innovative technologies. Let's dig a little deeper about them to find out exactly what they are!
What are autonomous vehicles?
An autonomous vehicle has the necessary computer systems to mimic human driving capabilities. This includes the way of driving and the control that the driver must have. Therefore, these autonomous vehicles don't need a conductor to circulate.
These cars can perceive the surrounding environment and perform an accurate analysis of it. In this way, the occupants can choose their destination and the car will determine how to get there. To do this, these autonomous vehicles use technologies such as LIDAR radar, laser, camera computer vision, and global positioning systems such as GPS. All this provides important information training of the environment and identifies the route. As it can also interpret traffic signs and recognize all kinds of obstacles.
This hardware depends on an artificial intelligence system that together with the cloud can be used to detail the terrain and store them. Therefore, the information obtained by the vehicles can be useful for the rest, which helps the machine learning system to continue to evolve.
Now we have defined what autonomous vehicles are and we know how their technology works. At first glance, they're the same as any other car, since they share the same physical characteristics. However, they differ mostly in their inner workings. Let's see what are the features that distinguish the autonomous vehicle from the rest:
- They have a virtual brain that identifies and controls situations before acting.
- A front sensor that allows them to determine the speed of other vehicles.
- They can see the road regardless of the weather, whether it's heavy rain, snow, or fog.
- The most advanced ones don't have pedals.
- Sensors, cameras, and radars that allow them to have a 360º vision with a wide range. And of course, thanks to this, they detect obstacles.
- They have GPS and 3D maps.
- Electronic batteries to power them.
Type of autonomous vehicles according to their levels
Slowly these autonomous vehicles are leaping the roads. Prototypes such as Waymo, the Google car, can already be seen. Some Tesla models are capable of driving on their own at a certain time. So their occupants can rest while autonomous driving is active. But of course, this field is very broad, so there are several levels of autonomous driving:
- First, we have level 0, these are all vehicles that do not have any type of automation. Therefore, they require some driver on board to perform all actions.
- The next level is level 1, these are the cars that have an automatic braking system in case of emergency.
- Level 3 continues, this autonomous driving refers to when the car can control itself and manage the driving functions. However, it requires the driver to be attentive to any inquiries and decisions made by the vehicle.
- Finally, there are level 4 autonomous cars. These are capable of fully autonomous driving. So they do not need human assistance or intervention.