Emerging Technologies: Self-driving Vehicles
What are Smart Cars?
As promised, we will discuss self-driving cars in this issue of Emerging Technologies Self-driving vehicles, also sometimes called smart vehicles or autonomous vehicles, have been at all the rate these days. Companies like Tesla have been producing smart cars for a while now. Even companies like Apple have announced plans to enter the industry. But why? What is all the hype about? Before we answer these questions we need to fully understand what smart cars are and how they work.
Smart cars use Artificial Intelligence or AI. We have previously discussed AI in a blog so we’ll just go over the basics for now. AI is a type of technology that allows computers to do tasks that usually require human intelligence. AI can learn on its own and function without human assistance. If you’d like to know more, check out this blog. They also use sensors, cameras and radars to observe the world around them in real-time. Based on the info the sensors collect, the AI drives the vehicle and takes it to its destinations. Smart vehicles can use GPS systems to locate where they are and where to go. The AI can even make quick decisions regarding when to stop or when to turn. Because the reaction time of AI is faster, it can end up saving the passenger’s lives in case of an accident.
Cars are not the only type of self-driving vehicle. In one of our last blogs, we discussed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles UAVs, and some UAVs are autonomous as well. Delivery trucks and trains can also be self-driving. Let’s look at some more examples.
Types of Automation
Research predicts that we’ll have some 8 million fully or semi-autonomous cars in use by 2025. There are six different levels of vehicle autonomy, which we’ll discuss now. Level 0 has no automation, while Level 1 has some driving assistance, and Level 2 cars have an autopilot feature. Across these three levels, it is the humans who monitor the road. On the other hand, across levels 3-6, the vehicle’s AI monitors the system.
At Level 3, cars can take full control over the journey. The jump in technology from Level 2 to Level 3 is much higher than between 1 and 2. An example of Level 3 autonomy is Audi’s new self-driving system. Furthermore, at Level 4, a car could complete an entire journey on its own. However, there are currently no Level 4 vehicles on the market. At Level 5, a car is completely automated and requires no human input. This would be achieved through the use of AI and sensors. The cars would not only monitor the environment but would also “communicate” with other cars on the road. Furthermore, Level 5 vehicles could travel in any terrain or environment, and would theoretically save millions of lives each year as they would remove any human error. Drunk car accidents would become a thing of the past.
Pros and Cons of Self-driving Vehicles
As discussed above, self-driving vehicles would eliminate human error and avoid accidents. The AI and sensors do not get tired or drunk and have wider attention spans. Moreover, they act quicker than humans. Autonomous cars, trucks and UAVs also have many industrial uses. Because they can communicate with each other and can be tracked, this creates an Internet of Things, or IoT, involving them. Because of this, companies can make their supply chains more efficient and track shipments. Real-time information would also give managers the chance to make better decisions and plan for the future.
Smart vehicles have several advantages, however, they have many disadvantages too. AI isn’t perfect. It can malfunction or can be hacked. One case of a smart card malfunctioning was in 2018 when a self-driving Uber killed a pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in Arizona, USA.
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