Self-driving cars are no longer a futuristic idea. Companies like Mercedes, BMW, and Tesla are already experimenting and would like to release, self-driving features that give the car some ability to drive itself. It is no secret that Tech companies are also trying to pioneer the self-driving car. Google has been at the forefront of testing its prototype of a driverless car in California, for some time. Meanwhile, there are continuing rumours that if Apple makes its move into auto production, its vehicles will all have self-driving capability. A self-driving car is defined generally as any car or vehicle with features that allow it to accelerate, brake, and steer a car’s course with limited or no driver interaction. Furthermore there are two types of self-driving car into two different types: semi-autonomous and fully autonomous. A semi-autonomous car will require driver input at some point, whilst a fully autonomous vehicle can drive from location to location without any interaction from the driver.
To further break down the categories, fully autonomous cars are further divided into user-operated and driverless vehicles. Because of regulatory and insurance questions, user-operated fully autonomous cars will come to the marketplace sooner. Industry experts estimate from anywhere between five to ten years, while driverless cars will remain a future development possible twenty years away.
The biggest benefits of self-driving cars are that they will help to make roads safer and people’s lives easier. Imagine if everyone could get around easily and safely, regardless of their ability to drive. Google say that aging or visually impaired drives and loved ones wouldn’t have to give up their independence. Time spent commuting could be time spent doing what you want to do. Deaths from traffic accidents—over 1.2 million worldwide every year—could be reduced dramatically, especially since 94% of accidents in the U.S. involve human error.
The technology required for self –driving cars is mind boggling. Google’s self-driving experiment al cars have sensors so sensitive, they can detect objects as far as two football fields away in all directions, including pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles—or even fluttering plastic shopping bags and rogue birds. The software processes all the information to help the car safely navigate the road without getting tired or distracted. In addition Googles car have been taught to navigate through many complicated scenarios on city streets using sensors and software to detect objects like pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles and more, and are designed to safely drive around them. The computers back systems in autonomous cars are also incredibly complex, having to control, steering, brake and drive the car safely, but also constantly compute and process where the car is in the world and map its route. Googles self-driving car also look radically different to conventional cars. Self-driving prototypes rely on their sensors and software to drive themselves and in designing new prototype from the ground up, there is an emphasis on comfort for occupants. Therefore some test cars have steering wheels and brake and accelerator pedals removed so that software and sensors handle the driving. Sensors Lasers, radars and cameras detect objects in all directions and Googles self-driving cars have rounded shapes to maximise the sensors field of view. Power train are electric batteries and motors and there are multiple backup systems for steering, braking and computing systems.
However obstacle to self-driving cars remain significant. Costs need to come down and technology and safety need to be as good as it can get around self-driving car features before the vehicles fully take off among mainstream consumers. Also, there are major issues such as the regulations, safety standards and the actual infrastructure around the whole self- driving vehicle program that need to be undertaken. Although the idea of a self-driving car is tantalising, it will indeed, be some time before you will be able to swagger or swan yourself into a car with no driver and expect a driverless ride home.
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