Self Driven cars – as the name itself indicates – are the vehicles that do not need a driver at all. When it was first announced, it resembled a scene from a science fiction movie. But, Google has made it real and real in our lifetime itself.
Google is designing the new age autonomous cars that make you’re riding a pleasurable experience. The technology is not much new, though. However, Google has plans to make it available to the general public at large soon.
What is a Self-Driving Car?
Self Driving cars are the autonomous cars that can drive through the traffic on their own. A project under Google X ( the concept has now dropped the word Google), it attempts to make the concept of autonomous cars a reality.
As of now, the Google Self-driving cars can be seen two shapes and avatars – a Lexus RX450h in a modified variant and a prototype. We can see those modified Lexus devices across Mountain View, Austin and the nearby areas.
How does it work?
The Google self-driving cars can move through the city roads quite easily and effortlessly. They have sensors fitted on the cars. The sensors can detect the obstacles on the road quite from a longer distance. You can be sure of the obstacles being detected from a distance that cannot be detected by a human being.
Everything in almost all directions can be identified – including the pedestrians, other vehicles and any sort of obstacles. The car can do it by means of the Artificial Intelligence that works as the real brain for the self-driven car. The sensors detect the surroundings and the Artificial Intelligence – with the aid of the software stays aware of its actual location including the lane and the road it is standing upon.
The software constantly keeps calculating the data it receives from the cameras, radars and other sensors. It thus reduces the complete surroundings in a clear 360-degree view. It then uses the logic to decide or predict what the other people or vehicles around could be doing. Based on those calculations, it avoids them by means of suitable movements.
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Are the cars prone to accidents?
Well, the software works on the basis of what the “thing” before it would do next and accordingly decides on its movement. What if the person, or the car or any vehicle does not work the way the software does interpret it to? Will it not lead to an accident? Or crash?
Well, it has had. Google’s Lexus had an accident recently when it crashed into a bus. And the reason was obviously what we stated just now – the driver of the bus did not behave exactly the way the autonomous car expected him to.
There have been many improvements so far. Google has improved its Bus Detection technology. The software will now identify an object through the size of the vehicle. It compares the size with the database it has. If a vehicle exceeds the size of a car, it will conclude that it is bus before it, and then proceed to recognise the color to decide which kind of a bus it is – a school bus or a tourist bus.
Maybe we will need a system that lets the vehicles communicate with each other, exactly the same way as the autopilot system works on flights. However, we have not been able to see many accidents that exactly involve the self-driving cars. According to the recorded history, there has been only one accident involving the self-driving car. But, we see more than that number of accidents that are caused by human error. A report from Google states that around 33000 people die in road accidents in the US alone. More than 90 percent of the cases of such accidents are presumably caused by human error.
Yes, there are cases where the humans will be forced to take over the control from the Artificial Intelligence and let the car be handled manually. The major reason for such takeover can be technical failures.
In any case, we believe that the autonomous cars can be better than the human drivers. That is exactly because the self-driven cars will remove the major cause of the accidents. The Ai or the sensors do not get sleepy, or drink and drive, right?
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Some limitations that need to be overcome
There are reports that the autonomous cars are not suitable in over 90 percent of the roads. Also, they have not yet been tested in differing weather conditions. Whether the AI and the sensors would be able to work through the different weather conditions is something that still needs to be addressed.
The autonomous cars operate based on a predefined maps. What if there are some temporary changes made to the traffic lights? Or what if there are some changes in the routes because of some emergencies? The self-driving car will not obey those rules.
The LIDARs cannot detect the potholes on the road. It won’t be able to detect a traffic official when he signals you to stop. These are some of the shortcomings of the dependence on Artificial Intelligence. Google has stated that they are working on it and all these issues will be sorted out by 2020.
Well, Google has stated that the project will go commercial and the self-driving cars would be made available to public by 2020. They have already released a prototype that has no steering wheel, accelerator or brakes pedal.
The limitations of the autonomous cars as stated in the article before have been promised to be sorted out by 2020 which is the time frame Google has set for itself for going public with the commercial launch. The only limitation that can cause the project on backburner could be the legislation.
As we are compiling this article, there are many restrictions currently imposed by most of the governments across the world against the commercial usage of the self-driven cars. The US too has not yet decided to allow the usage of these cars on public roads. We may need to wait till the proper legislations are in place.
The final words
Well, the Self driving cars are a concept that is still evolving. However, with the faster pace that the technology is being overhauled, it may not be much far to see the self-driven cars being a common feature on our roads. What do you think these vehicles? Share your opinions here and we will be glad to air your views here.