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Sunday 11 December 2016

Self Driving Car Technology:Latest developments

In a decade Autonomous/driverless vehicles will rule the streets of major cities around the world

Content Highlights
  • Autonomous/selfdriving/driverless car technlogy
  • How does a self driving car works
  • Architecture of autonomous vehicles
  • Google self driving car project
  • Tesla autonomous vehicle project
  • Selfdriving technology:Recent developments
  • Advantages and disadvantages of selfdriving autonomous vehicles

Driver-less car technology:An Overview

'When will self driving cars be available?'Many people are searching this phrase in different search engines.What this implies?.People are eagerly waiting for a perfect driverless car.Autonomous cars are already out there in market.But are they safe enough?Are they ready to compete with cars driven by humans?To what extent these vehicles are autonomous?.Questions goes like that.Let us see how far self driving car technology has reached so far.In this article let us have a look at current self driving car technologies and autonomous car researches happening around the world.

How do self driving cars work?

An autonomous car (driver-less car, self-driving car, robotic car) is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input.Autonomous cars can detect surroundings using a variety of techniques such as radar, lidar, GPS, odometry, and computer vision.

Electrical/Electronic system architectures of autonomous cars

Principal functions of a autonomous driving system can be categorized into to three.
1. Sensing
2. Decision making/planning
3. Control/execution

Sensing:Autonomous cars can detect surroundings using a variety of techniques such as radar, lidar, GPS, odometry, and computer vision.

Decision making/planning:Decision making can be done by programmed processors.It can be also achieved by artificial intelligence systems.

Control/executions:Decision based on the input by sensors should reflect in vehicle movements.This is primarily done by actuators which regulate speed and direction of the vehicles.

Self driving car technology
sensors used in self driving cars(image courtesy:
How far we have reached in autonomous vehicle technology?
Many companies have developed self driving machines so far.Some of the notable projects are discussed here.

Google self driving cars:

According to google ,"google cars use their sensors and software to sense objects like pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles and more, and are designed to safely drive around them"

How it drives

The car processes both map and sensor information to determine where it is in the world. Self driving car knows what street it's on and which lane it's in.
Sensors help detect objects all around us. The high end software classifies objects based on their size, shape and movement pattern. It detects a cyclist and a pedestrian in this case.
The software predicts what all the objects around us might do next. It predicts that the cyclist will ride by and the pedestrian will cross the street.
The software then chooses a safe speed and trajectory for the car. Car nudges away from the cyclist, then slows down to yield to the pedestrian.
google self driving car and its components
Major functional components of google self driving cars
Google team is working toward vehicles that take you where you want to go at the push of a button. Google is adding components to existing cars like their Lexus SUVs, then began designing a new prototype from the ground up to better explore what should go into a fully self-driving vehicle. They managed to remove the steering wheel and pedals, and instead designed a prototype that lets the software and sensors handle the driving.
Google started the self-driving car project in 2009.In 2009, they started testing self-driving technology with the Toyota Prius on freeways in California.In 2012, they began testing with the Lexus RX450h. Next, google cars shifted focus to city streets, a much more complex environment than freeways.Google unveiled an early construction of their new prototype vehicle in 2014. It’s designed from the ground up to be fully self-driving.
google driverless cars on road test
Google's fully autonomous car prototype

After months of testing and iterating, google delivered first real build of their prototype vehicle in December 2014.Still google is continuing research and development of their self driving cars.Before going into the commercial production they have address a serious of problems including self driving cars compatible roads,signal systems,precise navigation technology etc.Few crashes were also reported recently which demand google more safe autonomous vehicles in the future.
Google is publishing its Self-Driving Car Project Test Report every month.You can check Google Self-Driving Car Project Monthly Report from below link.

Tesla Self driving car project.

Leading electric car manufacturer Tesla claims 'All Tesla Cars Being Produced Now Have Full Self-Driving Hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver'.Eight surround cameras provide 360 degree visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range. Twelve updated ultrasonic sensors complement this vision, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system. A forward-facing radar with enhanced processing provides additional data about the world on a redundant wavelength, capable of seeing through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead.
driver less cars sensors in tesla
Tesla self driving car sensor distribution
Model S and Model X vehicles with this new hardware are already in production, and customers can purchase one today.

Tesla promises they will further calibrate the system using millions of miles of real-world driving to ensure significant improvements to safety and convenience.

Apart from google and Tesla, leading automobile manufactures like Volvo,BMW,Mecedez etc.. are also have launched their own versions of fully/partially autonomous vehicles.

Recent advances in self driving vehicle technology

  • Delphi, formed out of the former parts division of General Motors, and Mobileye, a rising Israeli company known for producing the sensors and other technology that help cars recognize obstacles in the road, had formed a partnership to provide self-driving components to automakers by the end of 2019.Mobileye and Delphi said they expected to demonstrate an early version of their system in January at the 2017 International CES, the annual consumer electronics show, in Las Vegas and to begin production of a commercial version within two years.Mobileye is already a vendor of computer-vision technology and other related systems to carmakers. For Delphi, the partnership is an extension of its other efforts to develop self-driving cars, including a project with the government of Singapore to field a test fleet of driverless taxis. In 2015, a driverless car built by Delphi completed a 3,400-mile trip from San Francisco to New York in nine days 
  • Delphi-Mobile eye duo is adding computer-chip giant Intel to the partnership to accelerate a project meant to deliver a fully self-driving vehicle system by 2019. 
  • Reports suggest that Apple is developing an electric iCar to rival Tesla.Apple is now focusing on an autonomous driving system.Apple has not made official announcement regarding its driver-less car projects.But,with news of a letter penned by Apple to US transport regulators about self-driving cars strengthens the rumours of iCar project under cover.

Major challenges in self driving car technology

  • Creating (and maintaining) maps for self-driving cars is difficult work.Google's self-driving cars work by relying on a combination of detailed pre-made maps as well as sensors that "see" obstacles on the road in real time. Both systems are crucial and they work in tandem.
  • Driving requires many complex social interactions — which are still tough for robots
  • Driving is an intensely social process that frequently involves e interactions with other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. In many of those situations, humans rely on generalized intelligence and common sense that robots still very much lack.Artificial intelligence can solve this problem to an extent.
  • Bad weather makes self driving more complex and trickier.Conditions like wet and slippery roads,bad visions in fog etc..
  • Better Roads:Especially in developing and under developed countries putting self driving machines on road is not going to be accomplished in near future.Self driving requires compatible roads.Such roads should have perfectly marked lanes,fool proof signal systems etc..
  • Better software:Driving in the United States is actually incredibly safe, with fatal crashes occurring once every roughly 3 million hours of driving. Driverless vehicles will need to be even safer than that.
  • Reckless Drivers/Unpredictable Humans:Predicting behaviour of a reckless/drunken driver is nearly impossible.
  • Law and regulations:requires a completely new set of laws and regulation for these category of vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles pros and cons

  • Since 81 percent of car crashes are the result of human error,there would be fewer accidents, as human error would be nullified.
  • It would be accessible to anyone. Children, senior citizens, visually-impaired or other impaired citizens.
  • There would be a reduced need for road signage, as the car would receive information electronically through signals.
  • There would also be a better management of traffic flow, which would be monitored over a controlled system.
  •  Less parking structures and parking headaches would be required, since your car could actually drop you off and locate a parking space farther away.
  • There would be fewer cars on the road, as families would only need one car to suit the needs of every member. This would sequentially cut down on carbon dioxide emissions, thus being more environmentally friendly.
  • Sensors in the autonomous cars allow vehicles to ride closer together, therefore allowing more cars on the road with actually less traffic.
  • Car enthusiasts would most certainly disagree to give up driving their own vehicle. To many, driving a car means much more than reaching a simple destination, as it seems to be reduced to when adopting autonomous cars.
  • It would be an economic disaster, if autonomous cars were implemented everywhere. Job losses would be monumental, as there would no longer be a need for professional drivers, such as cab and lorry drivers.
  • Autonomous cars would be much more expensive to buy, not to mention setting up electronic sensors on every accessible road or highway.
  • Autonomous vehicles rely heavily on GPS satellites. If a signal were to be blocked, this would affect the cars functionality.
  • The most savings in terms of cost, time, and lives is going to come from when more people "opt in" to the service. If self-driving cars are not adopted widely, accidents can and will still happen.
  •  If other technology fails, such as traffic signals that the cars rely on, there's no accounting for human traffic signals.
  • Autonomous vehicles are still undergoing research and can’t be trusted to operate without error, until further advances are made. Until then, they should be kept as ideal prospect for the future, which should still be visualized with caution.
At present self driving car technology is in its amateur phase.Autonomous vehicle technology will be one of the most competitive field in coming years.Many leading companies are working on autonomous vehicle technology.Lets hope this competition will bring out a perfect model of a driverless car in near future.

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