Autonomous Car: Automation Levels, Working Mechanism & Features Explained
A self-driving or autonomous car utilises a combination of cameras, sensors, radar and artificial intelligence to reach destinations without human intervention. Leading companies like Ford, BMW, Tesla, General Motors and Volkswagen are testing or developing autonomous cars. If you are keen to know about the details of an autonomous car, then keep reading this blog.
What Are the Different Automation Levels in an Autonomous Car?
There are six automation levels in an autonomous car. As the level increases, the freedom of controlling this driver-less car also increases. Keeping that factor in mind, let's take a look at the six different automation levels:
- Level 0: A driver drives the car, and the car does not exercise any control over its operation.
- Level 1: The Advanced Driver Assistance System or ADAS aids the driver in accelerating, steering, or braking, although not simultaneously. This technology in an autonomous car also includes a vibrating seat alert to warn the driver when he or she drifts out of a travelling lane. Besides, it has rearview cameras that increase the visibility in the rear, making reversing safer for the driver.
- Level 2: This level is for advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). Unlike the previous level, this level provides automation for the divers more than mere assistance. drivers get to enjoy braking, steering and accelerating automation, and cars allow them to either keep their hands on the steering, or go hands-free.
- Level 3: Now, the ADAS can do all the driving tasks under specific situations like parking the car. In such situations, the driver is required to retake control and drive the car again.
- Level 4: At this level, the ADS can perform every driving duty and observe the driving environment in specific circumstances. Under such circumstances, ADAS is reliable and does not require human intervention.
- Level 5: ADS serves as a virtual chauffeur and drives itself in every circumstance, and the driver is now a passenger of this car.
How Does an Autonomous Car Work?
Artificial Intelligence primarily propels an autonomous car. Developers of such cars utilise sensors, radars, machine learning, image recognition systems and neural networks to allow such cars to drive themselves without relying on a human driver.
The neural network detects the patterns in data, which is equipped with machine learning algorithms. Data contains images from the camera, which helps the neural network to recognise trees, traffic lights, street signs, pedestrians, etc., in a driving environment.
Various attributes help an autonomous car drive itself while keeping the riders safe. multiple sensors are used in this process. Radio Detection and Ranging (RADAR) is a commonly used sensor, which uses radio waves to bounce off distant surfaces. It informs the driver about adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking.
light detection sensors, on the other hand, are used for bouncing pulses of light off the car’s surroundings. It helps the car to detect the surroundings and drive accordingly. A camera technology is also used here to check the surroundings in a high resolution. lenses are placed all around the car to get wide-angle views of close-up surroundings.
What Are the Features of Autonomous Cars?
Nowadays, several features of an autonomous car are available in four-wheelers, some of which are listed below.
- Adaptive Cruise Control: This feature maintains a safe distance between an autonomous car and another car in front.
- Lane Control: This feature allows the car to safely remain within the travelling lane by observing the distance to road edges, lane markers and vehicles plying on the road.
- Autonomous Emergency Braking System: This feature automatically stops a car to prevent collision with another vehicle.
- Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication: This technology wirelessly transfers details about the adjacent vehicles' position, speed, and distance. This technology enables the car to broadcast Omni-directional messages and generate a 360-degree alert of other nearby vehicles.
- Sign Recognition System: This software program processes sensor data and recognises road signs.
- Collision Avoidance System: This system incorporates several features, including object identification and AEBS, to prevent collision with another vehicle.
- Light Detection and Ranging: This technology in a self-driving car determines the distance and identifies the surrounding object. The Light Imaging Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology uses laser light pulses to scan the surroundings. it bounces light off objectives for determining their shae, size and distance. It fires multiple laser signals per second reflecting off object surfaces to create a 3D model of the surroundings.
- Automatic Parking: The working mechanism of this feature may differ with each model. However, its primary function is to assess whether the vehicle can fit into a parking space and automatically steer the car there if it is a suitable area.
- Blindspot Detection: This feature offers a 360-degree electronic view around the car, irrespective of its speed. It checks the traffic behind the car and tracks if any vehicle is coming behind.
- Electronic Stability Control: This technology utilises an automatic computer-operated brake system of each wheel to maintain control in serious driving conditions. This feature is activated when a driver loses the vehicle's control.
- Reverse Park Assist: This technology detects any objects in the rear spot of a vehicle to avoid accidents caused during reverse parking.
- Traffic Jam Assist: This feature can be an extension of Adaptive Cruise Control and maintains a particular speed while considering other vehicles on the road.
- Rear Cross-traffic Assist: This feature helps to reverse the car from a perpendicular parking area when the rear view is not visible to the driver.
- Vehicle Guidance System: This feature assists in steering the car without any human assistance. This is a part of a control system that includes a motion planning algorithm, path generator and sensor fusion model.
What Are the Benefits of Autonomous Cars?
Listed below are a few benefits that autonomous cars offer:
- Safeguards Passengers: The autonomous car has advanced driver assistance systems that reduce automation levels. This helps an occupant in the car to predict imminent danger and take appropriate action.
- Ensures Mobility for Senior and Disabled Citizens: Autonomous cars expand the transportation facility for disabled and senior individuals as they don't need to rely on others to travel to their desired destination.
- Saves Money Due to Less Accidental Collisions: Autonomous cars help to prevent frequent accidents. Thus, they reduce the frequency of paying bills for medical treatment and vehicular repairing work. Besides, fewer accidents may also decrease the insurance cost.
- Promotes Productivity and Convenience: Autonomous cars promote convenience and productivity as the occupant in cars does not need to drive them due to their automatic functionality. Therefore, he or she can perform important tasks like replying to a mail or enjoy any entertainment activity like watching a movie.
- Decreases Traffic Congestion: Autonomous cars help to reduce car crashes, which may lead to fewer roadblocks. Moreover, these cars maintain a safe distance between adjacent vehicles, decreasing the stop-and-go waves that create road congestion.
- Lowers the Fuel Use and Carbon Emission: Using autonomous cars helps to lower traffic congestion. This implies that less traffic congestion will save fuel and lower the emission of greenhouse gases caused due to unnecessary idling.
What Are the Challenges of Autonomous Cars?
Mentioned below are the five challenges that a self-driving or autonomous cars may face:
- Unpredictable Road Conditions: Road conditions may differ from one area to another one. Some roads are smooth and broad highways with proper lane markings, while others are devoid of the same. Besides, there may be potholes on roads, and at the same time, external direction signals are often not clear in a tunnel or mountainous roads. Tacking all these road conditions requires complex decisions which an autonomous car with its existing technologies may find difficult to handle.
- Diverse Traffic Conditions: Autonomous cars have to drive in every traffic condition. These may include cars breaking traffic rules, the sudden appearance of objects, etc. In such situations, human interaction is essential to break through such traffic smoothly. On the contrary, autonomous cars may find it challenging.
- Unpredictable Weather Conditions: Like roads, weather conditions can be unpredictable. Sometimes, it can be sunny, rainy or cloudy. Thus, an autonomous car may be required to make instant decisions in handling such variable weather conditions, especially in extreme circumstances, which may be difficult.
- Liability of an Accident: Accidents are unforeseen, and despite bearing state-of-the-art safety features, an autonomous car may face an accident. One of the major challenges of an autonomous car is the liability to be taken for such an accident. This dilemma arises because software drives this car and makes crucial decisions without human assistance. Moreover, the occupant in the car will usually remain relaxed as the car drives itself after reaching a certain level and may not pay attention to such an unforeseen situation.
- On-road Social Interactions: Human drivers can take a subtle cue from making eye-contacts with the pedestrians and analysing other drivers' body language or facial expressions to make an instant decision. There is still a doubt whether autonomous cars replicate this similar human connection.
- Interference With the Radar: Autonomous cars use radar and lasers for navigation. Based on the readings of the radar, the car takes appropriate actions. If several cars on the road use this radar technology, it may become difficult for an autonomous car to differentiate its own signal from the one transmitted from another car.
An autonomous car offers several benefits but has many challenges to overcome. However, with more upcoming technological updates, it is expected that the developers can resolve those difficulties and bring some notable solutions.