The MAGIC of driverless future

The traditional automobile industry is subject to changes driven by technology and market demands. These changes include breakthrough technological advances and when the market demands and adopts new technology quickly. In the rapid advance of both factors, the end of the era of incremental change was recognised. Experiments have been conducted on automated driving systems (ADS) since at least the 1920s; trials began in the 1950s. The first semi-automated car was developed in 1977, by Japan's Tsukuba Mechanical Engineering Laboratory, which required specially marked streets that were interpreted by two cameras on the vehicle and an analog computer.

How do autonomous cars work?

A self-driving car, also known as an autonomous vehicle (AV or auto), driverless car, or robo-car is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and moving safely with little or no human input.

To do so, a variety of sensors combine to enable the car to understand its environment by seeing and sensing around 360-degrees:

  • Radar

  • Sonar

  • GPS

  • LiDAR

  • Odometry and

  • inertial measurement units

Advanced control systems in the supercomputer integrated with the car then process this information to calculate the best navigation paths, any potential obstacles and road signage along the way.

How a Self-Driving Car Interacts with Its Surroundings

The connected and autonomous vehicles communicate with each other and their surroundings in three ways:

  • Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) Interaction

The V2V interaction between autonomous cars allows information transfer on routes, congestion, obstacles, and hazards. For example, if a self-driving car encounters an accident or high-volume but slow-moving traffic, it is capable of relaying the message to other self-driving cars, which can then adjust their routes according to the received data and likely avoid accidents and traffic.

  • Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) Interaction

Self-driving cars can interact with infrastructure components such as intelligent parking systems to plan routes and reserve parking spaces well ahead of the journey. This data especially useful when the autonomous car has to decide how to park when it has reached its destination: parallel, perpendicular or angular. Besides, other driverless cars would “know” in advance whether a distinct parking space has already been reserved or is open.

  • Vehicle to Pedestrian (V2P) Interaction

The V2P interaction is primarily carried out between a self-driving car and a pedestrian’s smartphone application. According to The University of Minnesota, it funded a V2P prototype called Mobile Accessible Pedestrian Signal (MAPS). A visually-impaired pedestrian can use MAPS to receive and provide information regarding the intersection and the pedestrian’s location, respectively. Self-driving cars would then use such data, in addition to that provided by the cars’ sensors and LiDARs to more accurately locate pedestrians and potentially avoid collisions.

Why is the development of self-driving cars taking longer than predicted?

As a human, we can quickly calculate the best course of action concerning the hazard because we have both an understanding of consequences and, over time, we develop a familiarity with situations such as these. Presently, AI isn’t capable of doing so and it will take a lot of ‘trial and error’ before it is.

Important challenges keeping level 5 autonomy from becoming a reality:

  • Road Rules in the Developing World – California highways are a different driving environment than the traffic of Cairo or Chennai. The developing world may be left behind in terms of autonomous vehicle adoption (and thus, in terms of safety, lower emissions, and increased worker productivity) unless autonomous systems are developed to handle their unique circumstances and roadway norms. This may involve significant changes to driving habits and norms in these countries, or “test areas” where different roadway rules apply and where self-driving technologies can be tested.

  • Unified Standards – For vehicles to communicate with themselves or with infrastructure, new communication channels will have to be developed. These channels should allow vehicles of different makes and models to communicate, and they should be as safe as possible from hacking and deception.

  • Safety Thresholds – Governments of different nations will have to determine acceptable mortality rates, and safety standards and guidelines for different kinds of autonomous vehicles.

  • Weather and Disasters – Blizzards, floods, or damage to street signs and “V2” technologies could put self-driving cars at risk of serious error and mortal danger. Building road infrastructure to handle disasters, and building vehicles to hander abnormal or less-and-ideal conditions (visibility, tire traction, etc) are much more challenging than simply putting a car on the road on a sunny day.

Will humans be able to trust driverless cars?

On top of this, like any piece of technology, there’s potential for glitches to occur which can also cause distrust – if the car were to malfunction, stop suddenly, or act unpredictably it could be very destructive. Another hurdle to building trust in self-driving cars is the possibility of hacking with all technological advances, driverless cars could be open to misuse.

However, an autonomous vehicle may operate on a public roadway; provided, that the vehicle:

  • Has a manual override feature that allows a driver to assume control of the autonomous vehicle at any time;

  • Has a driver seated in the control seat of the vehicle while in operation who is prepared to take control of the autonomous vehicle at any moment; and

  • Is capable of operating in compliance with the District's applicable traffic laws and motor vehicle laws and traffic control devices.

What are the benefits of self-driving cars?

  • They are safer

It’s predicted that more than 90% of car accidents are caused by human error, meaning that the adoption of autonomous vehicles could significantly improve the safety of our roads.

  • They can provide independence

The implementation of autonomous vehicles with a rescue, emergency response, and military applications has already led to a decrease in deaths. By reducing the labor and other costs of mobility as a service, automated cars could reduce the number of cars that are individually owned, replaced by taxi/pooling and other car-sharing services

  • They are better for the environment

Vehicle automation can improve the fuel economy of the car by optimizing the drive cycle, as well as increasing congested traffic speeds by an estimated 8%-13%. Reduced traffic congestion and the improvements in traffic flow due to the widespread use of automated cars will translate into higher fuel efficiency

  • They will reduce traffic creating a ‘better’ driving experience.

The improvements in traffic flow due to the widespread use of automated cars will translate into the eradication of stressful driving and more productive time during the trip.

As collisions are less likely to occur, and the risk for human errors is reduced significantly, the repair industry will face an enormous reduction of work that has to be done on the reparation of car frames. Meanwhile, as the generated data of the autonomous vehicle is likely to predict when certain replaceable parts require maintenance, car owners and the repair industry will be able to proactively replace a part that will fail soon. This "Asset Efficiency Service" would implicate a productivity gain for the automotive repair industry.

Technology is advancing at a rapid pace

Between manually driven vehicles (SAE Level 0) and fully autonomous vehicles (SAE Level 5), there are a variety of vehicle types that can be described to have some degree of automation. These are collectively known as semi-automated vehicles. As it could be a while before the technology and infrastructure are developed for full automation, vehicles will likely have increasing levels of automation. These semi-automated vehicles could potentially harness many of the advantages of fully automated vehicles, while still keeping the driver in charge of the vehicle. Research and development into the technologies that make driverless cars possible are currently advancing at a rapid pace. Many countries and companies are investing heavily to make inroads to a driverless future as soon as this year.

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