Autonomous Cars: What are They?
Autonomous cars are being considered as the next step forward. With a lot of companies involved and planning their autonomous cars, it has become a topic that requires some level of understanding about this technology. All over the world, there is a major hype regarding self-driving cars; therefore this topic warrants some amount of attention, considering that your next car purchase may be self-driving to an extent even in this day.
Self-driving cars are also being touted as being a safe option, which will lead to decreasing the number of accidents. The decrease in the number of accidents will cause a decrease in the number of people getting hurt in the accidents.
It is pretty obvious seeing the market structure and planning that the self-driving cars will be here to stay and are the future. In this article, we’ll talk about what defines autonomous vehicles and then we’ll talk about the world’s largest automakers and their business plans regarding this.
Autonomous Vehicles: The Definition
Autonomous vehicles are the vehicles that can drive safely themselves based on certain conditions. The interference from the driver’s end may or may not be needed depending upon how much the car is automated. An example of an autonomous car driving itself would be when a person is sitting in the car and the car can drive itself on the highway while the person is preoccupied with some other task.
The vehicles that require support from driver’s end are known as semi-autonomous vehicles while the vehicles that require no support from the end of the driver are fully autonomous. For now, self-autonomous vehicles have been developed while the car companies are trying to improve systems to build fully autonomous cars where the driver will not need to drive. There are five levels in the autonomous behaviors, those are:
- Level 1 Autonomous Vehicles: In level one autonomous vehicles, small amount of acceleration or steering task is controlled by the vehicle without any requirement of human intervention. But most of the car functions are human controlled. This is the most basic level of autonomous vehicular behavior.
- Level 2 Autonomous Vehicles: Level two autonomous vehicles consist of features like the Advance cruise control or the original autopilot system that is present in some of the cars from Tesla. In this, the car has the ability to take safety actions; however, the person driving has to stay alert behind the wheel.
- Level 3 Autonomous Vehicles: Vehicles that have level three autonomous behavior require a person sitting behind the wheel. Although, the person driving can regulate some of the safety critical functions onto the vehicle, under effect of certain environmental or traffic constraints. This might be a bit dangerous though, as the major driving tasks of driving are passed onto the car by the person behind the vehicle, but the car will react to all situations in a similar way. Such same behavior is potentially dangerous from a generalized view point; and is the reason why car makers wish to skip the third level of automating cars, and move towards at least 3.5 or four level.
- Level 4 Autonomous Vehicles: Cars with level four of autonomous behavior can drive themselves in all conditions and without any human input. However, these cars can be programmed to not drive in the areas that haven’t been mapped or in severe weather. This will provide the human drivers to take over in case there is an emergency or the route isn’t a part of maps thus allowing the person to take decisions at discretion of self.
- Level 5 Autonomous Vehicles: Level five autonomous behavior renders the vehicles full autonomy in all conditions. The car will be capable of taking decisions regarding any and all matters. This is the final stage for the autonomous vehicles.
Most people have not much of an idea regarding these levels and are largely not informed about it. Hence, car companies avoid the usage of such terms when talking about the advancements in their car technology. What makes most people expect from autonomous cars is the idea of being able to let the car drive themselves on highways or cars that can drive in a certain terrain or a city.
A lot of automakers have put up the year 2020 as the target year for showing off their self driving cars. A lot of progress is being made by the car companies around the world who have been working to create cars with some self driving capabilities by the year 2020. Although, most of these vehicles will be luxury vehicles, once developed, the technology will trickle down for all types of vehicles.
When car companies say they want to build self driving cars, their definition is that the cars they want to make are of level 3 or 4 autonomous capabilities. There is seemingly a race in the market regarding developing self driving cars because the winner of the race will be able to have the first mover advantage and get a good share of the inquisitive market. It’ll also allow the company some amount of bragging rights.
With time, there will be considerable amount of self-driving cars that will require a legal regulatory framework to govern the purview of the autonomous cars. Since the development of autonomous vehicles depend upon these frameworks, both of legal and technological fronts, a lot is to be seen regarding the future of these vehicles.
What remains to be seen is how the government and the people warm up to the idea of travelling by self driving cars, or being around self driving cars. There are also some questions that have been left ungoverned for now; for example, faced in a situation where a vehicle will end up hitting a person, what methods will the car use for evasion to avoid the accident by the necessary means. This has been a constant source of speculation and yet remains unanswered.
But in any case, a person will be able to get in a self-driving car in another decade or so based on current updates.