A self-driving vehicle requires little to no human intervention. They do not need a driver to navigate, take note of their surroundings, or even move from one destination to another. These vehicles, once considered science fiction, are now on the market thanks to companies like Tesla and Waymo. Here’s a quick guide on how self-driving vehicles work.
Levels of Autonomy
Before going into the technical aspects and explanations on how self-driving vehicles work, it is important to understand the levels of autonomy (the extent to which the vehicle can function without human assistance).
- Level 1
Self-deiving cars are equipped with features that work without human assistance. For example, automated cruise control where the vehicle monitors the speed.
- Level 2
Here, an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS ) is present in the vehicle. This system performs tasks like steering and acceleration, but the human driver needs to monitor the ADAS and can take charge at any time.
- Level 3
At this level, vehicles operate with conditional automation. They can sense their environment and perform most driving activities, but human consent is necessary and an override is still possible.
- Level 4
Here, the vehicle is capable of performing all driving-related activities but only under certain circumstances. Geo-fencing is required at this stage, and the driver can take control if they want to.
- Level 5
It is the level where the vehicle becomes fully autonomous and doesn’t require any human assistance. The car can drive on its own under all conditions.
Interaction with Surroundings
One of the most important aspects of a self-driving car is the way it interacts with its surroundings. If you want to understand how self-driving vehicles work, it is important to know these three features:
- Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) Interaction
The V2V interactions occur between two autonomous cars. They exchange data on traffic, obstacles, hazards, and routes. If one self-driving car encounters a high-traffic route, it can pass on this information to other self-driving cars that can then change their routes accordingly.
- Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) Interaction
V2I interaction occurs between self-driving cars and intelligent parking systems. With the help of V2I, the vehicles can reserve parking spots in advance as well as decide how to park (parallel, perpendicular or angular).
- Vehicle to Pedestrian (V2P) Interaction
The interaction between a self-driving car and a mobile application called MAPS present on the pedestrian’s phones constitute the V2P. This app helps visually-impaired pedestrians by sending and receiving information on their location to the self-driving vehicle, which then uses LiDars and sensors to avoid a collision.
The technical aspect if how self-driving vehicles work is explained through these concepts:
Sensors and LiDar
The self-driving cars of today are equipped with all kinds of sensors that help in path planning and avoidance of obstacles. An autonomous car usually works with LiDar, radar, camera, ultrasonic, sensors for monitoring blind-spots, and collision warnings to make navigation possible.
Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity or cloud computing are used for mapping and localization. The self-driving car collects data on weather, traffic congestion, maps, road surface conditions, other cars, and more to make informed decisions.
Software algorithms help self-driving cars in the decision-making process. All the data gathered from the sensor and cloud computing is analyzed to determine the best course of action for the vehicle.