How about relaxing in your car letting it drive itself? The idea seems to be more fascinating for those who are on a long journey or even for physically disabled people. Fast, safe and untiring travel is what every human being on this planet has ever dreamed of. It would be possible through self-driving cars because the technology is actually here now.

Self-driving cars often known as autonomous cars are the vehicles capable of driving themselves by manipulating the surrounding around them and taking the decisions themselves without any human guidance or input. Cameras, radars, GPS and computer vision system attached in them helps to get 360 degree view and analyze the surrounding in order to distinguish obstacles and reach to correct destination through correct path.

T he history of these cars begins from late 90s but the major focus began on these cars when Google started to experiment on autonomous cars in 2009. Now many leading car companies like Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Nissan, Audi, Tesla Motors are into this business and they are working on to launch those cars as soon as possible. According to Elon Musk, his company Tesla Motors is near to the final version of self-driving cars and they are planning to launch these cars by 2018. The world’s second largest smartphone company Apple is also coming into this business with it’s autonomous electric car project called Titan. Currently, Uber and Google are testing self-driving cars on the roads of different states of USA.

But what makes these cars self-drive? Talking about car exterior, it is equipped with rotating laser range finder on its roof which sends laser beams creating 3D images of the surrounding to avoid hazards. There is also a front camera for near vision and bumper mounted with radar to know about vehicles both in front and back. The car is also equipped with geo locating devices which read current position of the car and guide the car throughout the way. On reverse gear, the ultrasonic sensor mounted on rear wheels help car to navigate around. The car also has altimeter, gyroscope, tachymeter in the inside that provide very precise measurement of different parameters. All the data from these sensors are integrated and handled by a single processor running the car. Google cars are sophisticatedly equipped with more advanced maps than that available at Google Maps for public to let them know about the road they are travelling. These cars actually compare the surrounding map they receive with the map they create on the site. They have also been programmed for real life road behaviors.

Equipped with so many features why they haven’t hit our roads yet? Well, A.I.(Artificial Intelligence) issues are the main reasons behind them. The inability to take moral decision at the right time on the road and to code them for A.I. is a difficult task. The present technology embedded with these cars can see the surrounding in clear weather only. But what happens when the visibility is poor and the road is covered in snow? Currently, these cars haven’t been tested for these conditions but they need to be extensively tested on bad weather before launching on market. Google cars use sophisticated maps for functioning but what will happen if the road signs are changed and maps have not been updated yet? Therefore, A.I. in these cars needs to ready for anything and response accordingly. This kind of technology will take some time to build up but it’s hard to say exact time because technology gets advanced faster than we expect. With so much companies working on, we can hope that the self-driving cars will be available on the market very soon but the ability to take decision will take some years to add because it is only possible through testing and self-learning feature of A.I.

Sushant Gautam

Mostly writes on growing tech trends, events, and future of technologies. He has a keen interest in tech entrepreneurial infrastructures and startup ecosystem of Nepal. He believes in using latest technologies in problem-solving and regularly patrols the progress in solving SDGs in developing countries. He is also a licenced amateur radio operator and ETC volunteer for disaster communication .

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