Autonomous Driving Technicalities - Part 2

 Autonomous driving is a big step for the automotive industry, and it's essential to be aware of all the improvements and upgrades it has to offer from the conventional IC engine vehicles. 

Key Trends "Driving" the Concept

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The above is taken from an extract submitted by Waymo in their Safety Report to Alphabet, the parent company to Google and its sub-companies. It shows the number of factors that influence driving in modern times and how a well-monitored algorithm will be able to do a much better job. 

The report is split into three main categories of discussion, namely Safety, Society, and Mobility. 

Safety

Safety is a major concern in automobiles. It is argued that software will be able to make a far better judgment when compared to humans. They will offer a safer driving experience by eliminating external factors as tiredness and fatigue, which is arguably the primary reason for road accidents. 

Society

Society and safety parameters are interlinked: the effect of neglecting safety causes a chain reaction in society. As the graphic suggests, over $594 billion has been devoted only to the loss of life and property every year. 

Road rage and other external factors also assert a side effect on the members of society that view automobiles just as a mode of transportation. 

Mobility and Quality of Life

Mobility and quality of life simply refer to the amount of time and energy that is wasted when the traffic is at a standstill due to excessive amounts of congestion. Autonomous driving can inculcate safer and better-preplanned routes that determine how the journey will proceed, saving an enormous amount of time and energy. 

This has another impact on senior citizens who are unable to commute due to their physical disadvantages, which impair their experience. 

So, to briefly summarize, the main points for discussion into making autonomous driving a reality are the safety features, avoiding the vulnerability of the economy, and reducing the time factor for the journey.

A Stroll Through History

The autonomy of automobiles is not a novel concept. Instead, it has been a point of discussion since ancient mythology and has amassed an evergrowing fan-base under its denomination over time. 

This growth in interest has been channelized to even children via cartoons and other visuals like comics. Right from the Ramayana, all the way to Alladin, autonomous vehicles have been around for quite some time. 

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The above graphic was developed by General Motors in the 1950s, illustrating people engaging in a board game in a vehicle in motion. 

The main agenda, hence, is to make this concept rise from a dream to the drawing board under the given time constraints. 

SAE Levels of Autonomy

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) offers a guide that explains how to design the levels of autonomy in a vehicle, based on the features it has to offer. 

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Basic Levels:

  • Level 0 is self-explanatory. Vehicles have no autonomous features, and even the windows are operated by using hands.
  • Levels 1 and 2 come under the ADA functionality. ADA stands for Advanced Driver Assistance, and it correlates to having one or two automated functions, which can be automatic braking and operating the windshield wipers.

The main autonomous driving configurations start with Level 3 onwards. 

Level 3:

Level 3 understands that the vehicle will not require constant intervention, and some critical tasks need to be completed by the people on board. This is also called as the Eyes Off configuration. 

A prime example is the cruise control feature where the car "locks" the speed set indefinitely.

Level 4:

Level 4 is a more advanced hands-free experience where the vehicle is entirely driverless in certain environmental conditions. This can be conceptualized best in areas with certain constraints like the airport, where passengers can commute between terminals. 

The Dubai International Airport have driverless metros that transport passengers from one terminal to another because of the ginormous distance between them. 

Level 5:

Level 5 is considered as the ultimate vision of this entire project. Also known as the Mind Off configuration, the whole concept of autonomy in a vehicle is a pathway to this very level. Vehicles equipped with level 5 autonomy will be able to commute to any geographically reachable location, under any given weather condition. 

Anatomy of an Autonomous Vehicle

The basic idea of an autonomous vehicle is to mimic human behavior. Ergo all the humanly senses need to be imparted into the car by making use of various devices like high definition cameras and ultrasonic sensors. 

Let's discuss each component along with its description. 

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  • Cameras: Cameras are the eyes of the vehicle. They provide real-time obstacle detection to facilitate lane departure and track roadway information like road signs and signals.
  • Radar: Radar entails radio waves detecting objects that are short and long-range depth.
  • Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR): LIDAR is another sensor that illuminates a target with pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses to create a three-dimensional map of the nearby area.
  • Global Positioning System (GPS): It triangulates the position of the vehicle using satellites. The GPS technology found in phones today is limited to a certain distance. Advancement in this field is under development to make it more powerful for an autonomous vehicle.
  • Ultrasonic Sensors: This system is used to detect sounds generated by vehicles in close ranges. It is most helpful in situations when emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks need a lane clear of the automotive.
  • Central Computers: Labeled the brain of the vehicle, this is the primary processing unit that receives various information from the components and helps direct the vehicle overall.
  • DRSC-Based Receiver: This is a device that allows vehicles to communicate with each other (V2V interaction).

Before proceeding to the next section in this series, watch the following video to get more in-depth knowledge and clarity to understand the following section. 

Ride in NVIDIA's Self-Driving Car 

Key Sensors for Perception 

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The objectives of the sensors are to provide a complete 360-degree view of the surroundings. An autonomous vehicle must efficiently combine all the inputs provided by the sensors (known as sensor fusion) and ensure that they will be fully-functional during any unusual weather conditions. 

If one or more sensors malfunction, the other sensors should be able to cover for the inoperative sensor. For the same reason, all the sensors mentioned in the illustration have varying ranges. 

In Conclusion

The behavior of the autonomous vehicle is dependent on the components installed. Therefore it plays a crucial role in shaping the vehicle's parameters to the people who will invest in it. To circle back, the key trends of autonomous driving deal with the amount of safety and comfort it can offer within a given economic constraint. 

To understand the fundamentals of autonomous driving and its benefits, visit Skill-Lync today.  

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