Autonomous Car, also known as self-driven or driverless car, is a car that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating itself to reach from one point to another. It uses technologies like radar, laser light, GPS, odometry and computer vision to understand the roads and traffic, thus eliminating the need of a human driver. These cars are widely believed to have the potential to reduce the number of accidents in the future by a huge margin as 80% of the accidents that happen on Indian roads are due to human errors.
Companies like Audi, BMW, Google, Ford, GM, Volkswagen and Volvo are already in the process of developing or testing these cars. Daimler, BMW and Audi have paid $3.1 billion to Nokia’s Here Technologies to use their mapping and location services. These companies are investing heavily in the technology to change the way we travel.
The most popular among these autonomous cars is the Google car, developed by Waymo, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. Let us see how the Google car works:
The driver enters the destination that he wants to go to and the car’s software chooses the route and starts the car on its way. A rotating, roof-mounted LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging- a technology similar to radar) sensor monitors a 60-meter range around the car and creates a dynamic 3-D map of the car’s current environment. A sensor on the left rear wheel monitors sideways movement to detect the car’s position relative to the 3D map. Radar systems in the front and rear bumpers calculate distances to obstacles. Artificial intelligence (AI) software in the car is connected to all the sensors and has input from Google Street View and video cameras inside the car. The AI simulates human perceptual and decision-making processes and controls actions in driver-control systems such as steering and brakes. The car’s software consults Google Maps for advance notice of things like landmarks and traffic signs and lights. An override function is available to allow a human to take control of the vehicle.
There may be several advantages but there still remains a question- Are these vehicles safe? There have been reports of accidents happening while riding the self-driven vehicles too. But again most of them involve some mistake by some human driving another car. The biggest problems standing in the way of these vehicles are we, humans only. Humans are unpredictable and the softwares used are still not that advanced to predict the driving behaviour of the human drivers on the roads. But with evolving technologies, we can hope for a solution to this problem too.
“These objectives go a long way in sustainable manufacturing and making sure that the impacts on the environment are minimum. Today, many companies have started adopting green manufacturing with the government starting to providing incentives and tax benefits to companies for green initiatives.”