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What is the technology that powers self-driving cars?

By Finserv MARKETS - Dec 23,2019
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Driverless Car Technology Explained

Has the long commute to work, the endless traffic jams, the constant honking, ever stretched your imagination to the point where you dreamed of a world with self driving cars? If you are a fan of the 80s series Nightrider, you might have seen David Hasselhoff’s intelligent driverless car bring justice to the world. Or you might know how DC comic hero Batman would cruise away in his Batmobile chasing the bad guys. Wasn’t that amazing?

Coming back to reality, it was only in 2009 that Google started working on a prototype for such a car. 10 years later, global companies such as Tesla, General Motors, Cruise Automation and Uber Technologies Inc are developing self driving cars that could change the way we use transport today. These next-generation cars are set to make your dreams come true. While the fascination with self-driving cars is immense, the curiosity to understand their workings is even larger. So if you’re wondering how exactly such vehicles work and what technology they use, let us explain it to you in simpler terms:

The technology of autonomous driving

To understand this, you will need to know the different levels of autonomy leading to a car that does not require any human control.

Level1: Let us take the example of a simple car model where you, the driver and the system share control. While you control the steering, adaptive cruise control looks after the engine and brake power for speed variation and maintenance. This is the starting level of automation.

Driverless Car Technology Explained
Level 2: Have you seen Volkswagen Polo’s ad for autonomous brakes or Ford Focus’ automatic parallel parking? In such cars, the system controls the accelerator, brakes and steering, but still the driver needs to constantly monitor the autonomous system. At times, you may also need to hold the steering wheel for the autonomous system to operate.

Level 3: Imagine being able to text or watch your favourite sitcom while driving. Autonomous vehicles in this category allow you to do just that. The system takes control of most vehicle operations in this driverless car. Driver intervention may only be required for a limited time for some operations.

Level 4: As a driver, you may have to intervene little at this level since such vehicles support self-driving only in select locations called geo-fenced areas. Waymo, the Google self driving car belongs to this category

Level 5: You have finally reached the level of no human control.

Interactive technology

Self-driving cars would also need to interact with their surroundings in order for them to operate efficiently, else they could create havoc on the roads. Let us take a look at the three necessary technologies that distinguish these vehicles of the future

1. Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) interaction:

This allows cars to exchange information on routes, traffic congestion and road blocks. If a driverless car meets with an accident or heavily congested road with slow-moving traffic, it can relay this to other cars so they can adjust their routes accordingly. This would help them avoid accidents and traffic.

2. Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) interaction:

When you head out for the mall on the weekend, what’s your biggest worry? Parking, right? Self-driving cars could reserve parking spaces in advance by communicating with infrastructure components such as intelligent parking systems. It could also decide whether to park in a parallel, perpendicular or angular way conveying the same to its peers so that they know if a parking space is open or reserved!

3. Vehicle to Pedestrian (V2P) interaction:

Imagine a visually impaired pedestrian in crossing the street. By downloading an application on his smartphone that is accessible to a driverless car, it gets information regarding the intersection and his location. An impending collision is avoided.

Driverless Car Technology Explained
Sensors also have a huge role to play. The Google self driving car, for instance, has eight sensors. The rotating roof-top LiDAR stands out. It has a camera that uses an array of 32 or 64 lasers which measure the distance to objects to create a 3D map from a range of 200 meters. This helps the car “see” hazards.

Another camera points through the windscreen to avoid collision with pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists. It also helps to read road signs and detect traffic lights. The Google self driving car Waymo uses data from all its sensors, which is then interpreted by its own software to keep track of road users and their behavior patterns and commonly used highway signals.

With such new visions coming to life, user experiences are bound to change. Several other aspects associated with transport and cars, like accessorizing, insurance, traffic policing etc. are also bound to change, concurrently. Insurance, however, will certainly remain a necessity, no matter the change in drivership. If you’re looking to protect your financial interests with car policy, you can opt for Car insurance policies available on Finserv MARKETS for your existing car. Not only does it protect you financially against theft, accident and natural calamities but also comes with cashless claim servicing across India. You might need to hold on to the driver’s seat literally, until self-driving cars become a reality.

To know more on car insurance in depth, you can check out these blogs:

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