An autonomous vehicle is one that can operate without a driver’s input and sense its surroundings. A human passenger is not required to drive the car at any time or even to be inside it at all. In fact, an autonomous vehicle is capable of doing anything a qualified human driver is capable of doing and can travel anywhere a traditional vehicle can go. But how far away from having truly autonomous cars in our daily lives are we as a society?
Six Levels Of Autonomy
According to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), there are currently 6 levels of driving automation, ranging from Level 0 to Level 5. These levels have been adopted by the US Department of Transportation to describe the current state of vehicle automation.
As the levels increase, the driverless car’s operational independence also increases. These levels are described in more detail as follows:
- Level 0 – All driving is done manually; the car has no control over how it drives.
- Level 1 – The vehicle’s advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) can help the driver with steering, braking, and acceleration.
- Level 2 – Under certain conditions, the ADAS can control steering, accelerating, and braking; however, a human driver is still required to pay full attention to the road ahead while navigating the other required tasks.
- Level 3: The ADS (advanced driving system) may be able to handle all aspects of driving in some situations, but a human driver must be able to take back control if necessary. In the remaining circumstances, the human driver handles the necessary tasks.
- Level 4 – The vehicle’s ADS can handle all driving duties on its own in situations where the driver’s attention is not required.
- Level 5 – This entails total automation, where the vehicle’s ADS is capable of handling all tasks without the need for a human driver to help. Complete automation will be made possible by the use of 5G technology, which will enable vehicles to communicate not only with one another but also with traffic lights, signs, and even the roads themselves.
How Do Autonomous Vehicles Operate?
Autonomous vehicles require sensors, actuators, sophisticated algorithms, machine learning systems, and powerful CPUs in order to operate the automation software.
- These cars create and maintain a map of their surroundings based on numerous sensors dispersed throughout the vehicle:
- Video cameras are used to identify pedestrians, traffic lights, road signs, other vehicles, and radar sensors to keep track of the locations of nearby vehicles.
- Ultrasonic sensors on the wheels detect curbs and other vehicles when parked
- Light detection and ranging sensors (lidar) use the reflection of light pulses from the environment around the car to measure distances, locate road boundaries, and identify lane markers.
The advanced software then analyzes all of this sensory data, draws a path, and sends instructions to the actuators in the car that control steering, braking, and acceleration. The software uses hard-coded rules, obstacle avoidance algorithms, predictive modeling, and object identification to assist in adhering to traffic regulations and avoiding obstructions.
What Obstacles Does Full Autonomy Face?
Although none are currently open to the general public, fully autonomous (Level 5) vehicles are being tested in several parts of the world. Legal, technological, environmental, and philosophical issues are among the challenges. Among the difficulties the sector is dealing with are the following:
What happens if an autonomous vehicle is driving through a lot of rain? How will the cameras and sensors be able to follow the lane markings if they are covered in water, grease, ice, or debris? When talking about full automation, all of these things need to be taken into account.
LIABILITY FOR ACCIDENTS
Who is accountable for accidents caused by self-driving cars? neither the maker nor the human traveler? According to the most recent designs, a fully autonomous Level 5 vehicle won’t even have the option for a human passenger to take control of the vehicle in an emergency because it won’t have a dashboard or a steering wheel.
RADAR AND LIDAR
Lidar is expensive, and researchers are still working to find the best balance between range and resolution. If multiple radio frequencies are available, will the frequency range be broad enough to enable the mass production of autonomous vehicles? Several autonomous vehicles traveling the same route; would their lidar signals interfere with one another? Again, these are factors that should be taken into account.
FEDERAL VS. STATE REGULATION
Federal guidelines were previously the main form of regulation in the US for autonomous vehicles, but state-by-state regulations have recently taken their place. A per-mile fee for autonomous vehicles has even been proposed by some jurisdictions to stop the rise in vehicles traveling without passengers.
Legislators have also suggested legislation that would mandate panic buttons and zero-emission standards for all autonomous vehicles. But will there be differences in the laws from one state to the next? Can an autonomous vehicle cross state borders? To travel legally, these are issues that need to be addressed.
When Will Fully Autonomous Vehicles Become a Reality?
Even though the auto industry still needs to overcome a number of obstacles before Level 5 ADAS vehicles are made available to the general public, the future of automated vehicles is still bright.
In the beginning, Level 5 ADAS vehicles are likely to only be appealing to a small segment of the general public, particularly tech and auto enthusiasts. According to the American Automobile Association, only 12% of people, including more than half of drivers, say they would feel safe in fully autonomous vehicles due to accident liability and insufficient regulatory concerns.
Only when drivers are certain that these cars are safe and properly insured will they buy them. Automakers won’t increase production, though, unless there is a market need, and regulatory bodies and insurance companies won’t be able to decide how to handle autonomous vehicles until they are more prevalent on the road.
Commercial clients may be able to resolve this problem by changing how the public perceives automation and piqueing consumer interest. The development of ADAS features for commercial and public transportation, including fleets of city buses, airport shuttles, long-haul commercial trucks, and unmanned last-mile deliveries, is likely to make significant strides. All of them will help people feel more confident that ADAS vehicles are a real option for dependable, secure consumer transportation.
It’s difficult to predict when fully autonomous vehicles will start using the roads. Automakers and technology companies are developing these cutting-edge vehicles, but other industry players will also make a contribution to the next chapter in the history of the automobile.
The automotive industry’s transition from Level 2 to Level 3 is currently occurring, according to Nik Miles of Our Auto Expert, a 20-year veteran broadcaster and analyst in the field. However, the industry has not yet reached Level 5. Even though the majority of the major automakers already offer semi-autonomous hands-free technologies in their vehicles, there is still a long way to go before Level 5 autonomy is produced in large quantities and accepted by consumers.
Recent research suggests that tech companies may have exaggerated the feasibility of fully automated cars and the timeframe for widespread adoption. If automated cars ever become widely used by the majority of people on the road, it may be 20 to 40 years away.