Autonomous cars that we used to adore in science-fiction movies is already under the process of hitting the roads soon. Leading companies like Tesla, Lexus, BMW and Mercedes are intensely working on the driverless car technology, where the driverless autopilot system of Tesla was already tested on UK roads. On the other hand, technology giants like Google and Apple are working on the automated car technology in partnership with automobile companies.
Although complete autonomous cars are in the advanced stages of testing, partially automated technology has been in use from quite some time. For instance, the BMW 7 series features automated parking and remote-control options. Heavy investments from private and government sources such as GBP 20 million by the UK government are supporting the development of driverless cars around the world.
The increasing investments and interest in the technology is clearly evident that our roads are soon going to be flooded with autonomous cars. However, before launching them on roads, the manufacturing companies have to extensively test them for multiple technical and ethical challenges and able to incorporate the technology in such a way that it should not harm the human beings.
Several sensors are used around the vehicle to interact with the reality around them such as the eight sensors used in the Google Car. The Google Car has a top LIDAR camera that uses lasers to calculate the object distance and build a 3D image at the range of 200m to avoid any accidents. Also, a standard camera is used to monitor dangers like pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, along with road signs and traffic signals through the windscreen. Finally, the radar attached to the bumper takes care of the front and back of the vehicle. Other than these the car also has features like GPS connectivity from satellite, ultrasonic sensors, altimeters, gyroscopes, and tachometer to improve the road safety.
All the sensors and cameras help the Google car to understand the road like a human, there are few limitations for those sensors. The cameras used in the autonomous cars are susceptible to extreme conditions like temperature, sunlight, and defective traffic systems. So, it is essential that these cars have to be tested and updated to mitigate the risks. Google is making its autonomous cars under the business name of Waymo, which is taken from its mission ‘a new way forward in mobility.’
There has been a wide argument that connected car and traffic systems can reduce the road catastrophes. Car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communication is essential for successful autonomous driving, according to the senior manager of Harman’s infotainment section that supplies in-car technologies to Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
Germany is the most popular automotive industry that incorporated the technology of connected car-traffic infrastructure and leading companies like Daimler, BMW and Audi has paid USD 3.1 billion for the Nokia Here Mapping service, which acts as a connected-car environment platform. This platform uses the digital maps with real-time vehicle information to improve the safety and introduce new products and services. It is necessary that this kind of technology must be used in every vehicle to enable the communication between automated cars and vehicles run by humans like ambulance and patrol vehicles.
Major threat – HUMANS
The most important threat for the driverless cars is from the humans. Recent incidents like accident of the Google Car due to the carelessness of the human driver in other car is a proof that autonomous cars are at the risk of human beings. Albeit the advanced technologies and changes in the autonomous cars, there is no such technology that can predict the risk from surrounding human drivers.
Therefore, it is essential to have lot of performance testing along with the awareness to human drivers about the road safety. It could be merely impossible to introduce these vehicles on roads without proper traffic control and human support.