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Autonomous Cars

Autonomous Car, also known as self-driven or driver-less car, are cars that are 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 for 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. Around 80% of accidents that occur 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 out 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 sideway movement to detect the car’s position relative to the 3D map. Radar systems in the front and rear end bumpers calculate distances to obstacles. Artificial intelligence (AI) software in the car is connected to all the sensors and has inputs from Google Street View and video cameras inside the car. The AI then 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.

What will change with Autonomous cars on the roads?

  • This will lead to far lesser accidents on the road. Accidents may even go down by 90% because these machines would not feel fatigue like a human driver would, nor would it jump a traffic signal or break rules.
  • We may no longer have to worry about living far from our workplaces. Because it will be the cars driving themselves and negotiating with the traffic while we can utilise this time to do more productive things or simply relax.
  • This will specially help the old or the handicapped as they often can’t drive a car themselves.They simply have to input their destination co-ordinates.
  • A lot of companies can provide taxi services and we would not have to buy cars for ourselves as we can just hire a service from one of the service providers of self driven cars. This means no longer spending time and money on the maintenance of cars. This will also solve the problem of lack of parking spaces as most cars will be continuously on the road.
  • Self driven cars will require less space on roads since they will be driven very systematically and thus will leave more space for pedestrians or for people who ride cycles or bikes.

While there may be several advantages to self-driven cars there still remains a question- Are these vehicles safe? There have been reports of accidents happening while riding self-driven vehicles too. Then again most of them involve human error. The biggest problem standing in the way of these vehicles are us, humans only. Humans are unpredictable and the software used is still not advanced enough to predict the driving behaviour of other human drivers on the road. 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.”

Sandeep

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