Autonomous vehicles or self-driving vehicles have slowly started to rise for the past few years. Many people believe that self-driving cars are the future of human transportation, and with their efficiency, we may see new car dealerships being filled with them soon.
An autonomous vehicle is a vehicle capable of sensing its environment and operating without any human involvement. These vehicles allow their owners to just calmly relax in the passenger’s seat and do whatever they want while being transported to their desired destination.
Autonomous vehicles work by relying on sensors, actuators, complex algorithms, machine learning systems, and powerful processors to execute software. Sophisticated software processes all the necessary inputs and sends instructions into the car’s actuators, controlling acceleration, steering, and braking.
Levels of Driving Automation
There are currently six levels of driving automation defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers or SAE. The U.S. Department of Transportation has adopted these levels, so let’s take a closer look at them below:
- Level 0 – This is considered our typical car today. There is no automation, and the driver is in full manual control. All driving tasks such as steering, braking, and acceleration are all done by the driver.
- Level 1 – At this level, the vehicle will have some form of driver assistance or a single automated system. An excellent example of this would be the cruise control feature we see on most vehicles today.
- Level 2 – This level features an ADAS or Advanced Driver Assistance System. It has partial automation meaning it can oversee the steering, accelerating, and braking in certain conditions. However, the driver must still pay complete attention to their surroundings as they can take control of the vehicle at any point they want.
- Level 3 – A vehicle of this level features ADS or an Advanced Driving System. The vehicle has conditional automation as it can perform all of the necessary driving tasks until the driver is required to regain control. Human override is still highly required in a vehicle like this during emergency times or when the vehicle’s system is unable to execute a task, and pedestrian safety is at risk. An excellent example of a Level 3 vehicle would be to manage itself on a freeway journey but will need human override in other conditions such as heavy traffic.
- Level 4 – This level provides high automation in which the vehicle can perform all driving tasks independently under specific circumstances. Human override is still an option at this level, especially when driving under challenging conditions like traffic jams or other significant obstacles.
- Level 5- This level features full automation in the vehicle. The vehicle’s ADS performs all driving tasks under all conditions, and no human driver driving assistance is required.
Current State of Autonomous Vehicles
Today, many vehicles are considered semi-autonomous, and some of you could even be driving one right now without even knowing it. These vehicles come with features such as assisted parking and braking systems.
One of the most famous companies spearheading the trend into autonomous vehicles is Tesla, headed by Elon Musk. Tesla is a company dedicated to making the most efficient self-driving vehicles and hopes to bring the future of driving into today’s world with technological advancements and promising research.
Google also has a sector that aims to create autonomous vehicles called Waymo. Other companies such as GM’s Cruise and Ford’s Argo AI are also moving into the space of autonomous vehicles.
How Can Autonomous Vehicles Change The Way We Move?
With the recent developments in autonomous vehicles, we will likely see them reshape the way we travel in the future.
Lower Number of Road Accidents
As noted by the British Broadcasting Corporation article, many people believe that autonomous vehicles can help lessen road accidents, especially those resulting from driver distraction. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that 94% of serious crashes happen due to human error. The NHTSA believes that with the increasing popularity of self-driving vehicles, the number of serious crashes due to human error will decline as autonomous vehicles can communicate with each other and stop when a collision is possible.
People who drive for long hours can also lessen their driving fatigue through an autonomous vehicle. The driver can let the vehicle drive itself to their desired destination while they take a quick nap or relax themselves, as long as the driver doesn’t violate any traffic laws.
Improved Traffic Flow
Another significant change that can come from these autonomous vehicles is reduced traffic congestion. Researchers from the University of Cambridge have shown that when driverless vehicles or autonomous vehicles work together. These autonomous vehicles will most likely have a repertoire of advanced features, which works in symbiosis when vehicles safely travel close together. Since autonomous vehicles travel close together without accidental risks, more vehicles can fit on the road, and lane capacity can be increased by up to 500 percent, allowing us to get from one place to another faster than usual and change how people who live in big cities with heavy traffic will move.
Lower Fuel Consumption
Because autonomous vehicles have platooning features, fuel consumption will be reduced as they can accelerate or decelerate much smoother than human drivers.
Transportation for People with Disabilities
Another change that autonomous vehicles can bring is in transportation accessibility. People who cannot drive due to disabilities or age will go to different places independently. If a family member cannot drive their loved one to the doctor, an autonomous vehicle can do so.
Our society continues to move into a more fast-paced and high technology world, and a lot of people believe that autonomous vehicles will be the future of human transportation. They may not take over right away, but as more people begin buying these self-driving vehicles, we will be seeing a lot of changes happening. According to MIT’s Task Force on the Work of the Future, fully autonomous vehicles are at least still a decade away as there are still several technical challenges that must be addressed before driverless vehicles can be deployed.
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