Editorial Feature

Automated Cars - Driving Through Concept to Completion

An automated car, also known as a robotic or self-driving car, is an autonomous vehicle that has an ability to sense its surroundings and navigate without requiring any input from an operator. It senses its environment using computer vision, GPS, LIDAR and RADAR.

Advanced control devices evaluate sensory information to determine relevant signage and obstacles while identifying navigation paths. Certain automated cars use sensory input to update their maps and navigate their path through uncharted environments. Google have also been involved intesting self-driving cars and the following video by the Mercator Group will provide a great example of this concept in detail:

Automated car technology by Google. Video Courtesy of Mercator Group.

Sensor-Based Solutions for Self-Driving Vehicle

Sensor-based solutions currently being developed in the automotive industry are becoming the key to improving vehicle safety in high speed zones.

These sensors provide safety at lower speeds, when the driver is stuck in traffic and also at higher speeds, when the driver is traveling on a long stretch.

These systems are called advanced driver assist systems that features advanced sensors such as long- and short-range RADAR and stereo cameras together with control systems and integrating software to observe the car's interaction with the environment.

Some of the advanced driver assist systems available in the market include parking assistance system, back-up alerts, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping and warning systems.

Several companies are also involved in creating advanced sensor-based, driver-assisted solutions that employ complex algorithms to estimate the three-dimensional geometry of a vehicle event in real-time based on the images they capture.

Such systems provide driver assistance in different dimensions. However, they are not still capable of providing complete and cost-effective self-driving experiences.

Humans make use of stored memories and sensory input to understand the events when they occur and anticipate likely situations. However, the combination of sensors and artificial intelligence in these systems is not enough to interpret the vehicle's surroundings as perfectly as a human.

On the other hand, creating a 360-degree view of the vehicle's surroundings requires the use of advanced sensors, which may be of high cost, thus discouraging customers from buying them.

Design of Current Automated Car Technology

The technologies used in self-driving cars include:

Anti-Lock Braking System

When a hard brake is applied on a car without anti-lock brakes, the wheels tend to lock up thereby allowing the car to lose its balance and skid. Therefore, the driver has to pump the brake pedal to prevent locking up of wheels. However, in a car with anti-lock brakes, the system performs the brake pedal pumping for the driver. The system is capable of sensing the locking up of wheels, and responds instantly.

Stability Control

Traction or stability control systems can identify the event of roll over or an out-of-control skid by the car beforehand and prevent that from happening. It constantly monitors the car's speed, direction and connection between each wheel and road. This system is more complicated, and employs multiple networks within the car to prevent the driver from losing control.

Cruise Control System

The purpose of cruise control is to maintain the car at a constant speed set by the driver, without the need to press the gas pedal constantly. Adaptive cruise control, on the other hand, employs radar sensors placed in front of the car to sense the object and its movement. It will also maintain a safe distance between the car and the object in front of it.

Self-Parking System

A self-parking or advance parking guidance system employs sensors fitted around the car to guide it to the parking space.

The driver has to find a place 6 ft longer than the car, park the car next to the space and instruct the car through the in-cabin navigation screen.

The system studies the surrounding area and moves safely from one point to another point.

Automated Guided Vehicle System

Automated guided vehicle systems make use of free ranging on grid (FROG) technology, which is quite similar to the self-parking system. Vehicles having this technology are provided with a computer in which a map vehicle operation area is stored.

The vehicle counts wheel revolutions to determine the travel distance using the map. Hence when passengers get into a FROG vehicle, they can just push a button to set their destination.

The vehicle takes the passengers to the destination using the calibration points, map and on-board computer. However, it can be used only within a limited area.

Advantages of Automated Cars

The key benefits of automated cars include the following:

  • It reduces traffic collisions owing to improved system reliability and immediate response when compared to human drivers
  • High speed limit
  • Reduction of parking space scarcity as cars could drop off passengers and park far away where there is plenty of space
  • Improved fuel efficiency
  • Reduction of physical road signage
  • Increased roadway capacity
  • It avoids the need for traffic police
  • It eliminates the constraints on occupant’s state. The occupant can be under age, over age, blind or impaired.

Conclusion

Automated cars are provided with artificial intelligence for route guidance and detecting obstacles. These vehicles can be used to help patrol the country's borders, and has potential civilian uses as well. They can be used as emergency service vehicles during natural disasters, chemical spills and fires. They provide valuable, on-the-ground monitoring of information about dangerous situations and help in rescues. Most of the car accidents occur due to human error, and hence automated vehicles are safer than human- operated vehicles. However, liability and insurance of these vehicles are the major limitations of the automated vehicles.

Sources and Further Reading

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