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Autonomous Driving

What is Autonomous Driving?

Autonomous Vehicles are soon to be the redefinition of the automotive world. Many companies around the world are jockeying to bring this advanced technology to reality. Most of the discussion in this article is focused on self-driving cars and the technologies that are being used to achieve Autonomous driving and its societal benefits.

Self-driving cars are no more a fantasy or a work of fiction. With advanced technologies developing at such a rapid speed, we can easily bring autonomous driving to reality. As per the market forecast estimate, autonomous cars are the future and will hit the roads by the end of 2025.

Advantages of Autonomous Driving

  • Reduced Accidents: As there is no human interventions and errors, we can see steep fall in accidents. The main idea behind Autonomous driving is to avoid human interventions and reduce fatal accidents. Humans have the privilege of taking drastic risks and breaking the rules, however AVs are programmed to follow the traffic rules and they adhere to them.
  • Efficient and Luxurious Travel: Fully autonomous cars are fuel efficient when compared to human-driven cars. As we exclude drivers in autonomous cars, we can utilize the space and make it more luxurious by removing unnecessary controls and units.
  • Parking Ease: Self-driven cars can park themselves without the help of humans. Cars like BMW, and Mercedes already have this parking assistance technology.
  • Disabled Drivers: People who are physically disabled can have the freedom to experience solo driving.
  • Lesser CO2 Emission: Let us understand how autonomous vehicles reduce Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission. The technology which we are using in Driverless car allows “Connected Vehicles” to communicate with the roadside infrastructure which includes traffic lights and then it uses the gathered information to reduce CO2 emission. Basically, here all the connected vehicles with the information act like a single platoon and they accelerate and brake at the same time. As a result, platooning helps in reducing CO2 emissions.

What exactly is an Autonomous Vehicle?

An autonomous vehicle should have the capability of sensing its environment and should be able to operate itself without human intervention. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has defined six levels of driving autonomously, which we will be discussing in detail.

No Automation (Level 0)

In this level, we will not see any automation in the driving and most or all of the time humans are involved. For instances like braking, acceleration and steering of the car, humans need to pay complete attention while driving. Most of the vehicles which we see fall under No Automation level.

Driver Assistance (Level 1)

This level is the lowest of automation. We already have premium cars with driver assistance and there is redundancy in human strain. Even though there is driver assistance, humans need to stay focused and get in action whenever required. Cruise control (acceleration) is the best example for Driver Assistance level.

Partial Automated Driving (Level 2)

This level gets more interesting. Even though it is partially automated, driver should lay hands on the steering. In this level, automation can assist with the steering and controls the speed of the vehicle. With the help of sensors, the vehicle detects the objects in front of it and stops the vehicle. When it comes to steering it provides assistance by keeping the car at the center of the lane. We have Tesla Autopilot, Volvo Autopilot and then Audi with traffic assist in the market.

Conditional Automation (Level 3)

This is where the autonomous driving gets exciting and much more interesting. We still don’t have these vehicles right now available in the market. However, we are going to see them very soon. Automobile manufacturers such as Tesla, Audi and BMW are testing the cars with Conditional Automation.

This level of autonomous vehicles are capable enough to drive themselves, however only under ideal conditions as there are certain limitations to this. These vehicles drive within divided highways and within the limited speed, but there should be driver behind the steering to take over the vehicle, just in case the conditions fail due to any unexpected reason. The Next generation 2019 Audi A8L is gearing up to launch with Level 3 autonomous driving in the German market and it is expected to be the first of its kind.

High Automation (Level 4)

There is a slight line in understanding between Level 3 and Level 4 autonomous driving. In this level, human intervention is not at all required. This means that the system itself will intervene whenever things go out of hand. However, humans will still have access for manual override and the access to take over the vehicle when this happens.

In order to roll out Level 4 vehicles, we need to go through a lot of changes in the environment. We must build new infrastructure in such a way that the vehicle understands and reacts accordingly.

There are numerous automobile companies which are testing the Level 4 Autonomous vehicles around the world. Navya, a French company and Alphabet’s Wamyo are already building Level 4 shuttles and cabs in the U.S.A. have been under testing for over a year. These vehicles have been tested for more than 10 million miles. Canadian automotive supplier Magna built MAX4 and very recently Volvo and Baidu are jointly developing Level 4 electric vehicles which are intended to serve robotaxi in the Chinese market.

Full Driving Automation (Level 5)

This is where we reach the final level of autonomous driving and it is a true driver-less system. In this level we do not see any driver seat, steering and any controls which are used by humans to drive the vehicle. This level eliminates the so-called “Dynamic Driving”.

This level of autonomous vehicles are controlled through voice assistance. Even though with the present technological existence, we can build a Level 5 autonomous vehicle, due to regulations and legal battles, it is going to take a lot longer than anticipated for these self-driving cars to appear on the roads.

Over the years, automobile industry has gone through various changes, research, implementations and developments. It has started its journey from the push-pull cart times and has reached to the level of fully-automated cars. With the help of latest technologies such as AI, Sensor Technology, Neural Networks, IoT and Data Science, the concept of Autonomous Driving is set to be a reality in the upcoming future.

Contact for further details

Sai Abhishek Sriram
Team Lead – AI

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