Oct 152018
 

Autonomous Vehicles
The ‘future’ is finally here as self-driving cars aren’t a ‘what if?’ but rather a ‘why not’? Just a few years ago it was largely uncharted territory but now, every major car manufacturer is pursuing the technology and some autonomous vehicles are already on the road in Paris, Singapore and several states in the US.

What Car Manufacturers Are Involved?

GM tops the list with Daimler-Bosch (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz), Ford, Volkswagen and BMW not far behind. What’s more, whole manufacturers are working together, with Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi having formed an alliance while Volvo, Autoliv, Ericsson and Zenuity have formed a separate alliance.

With GM having promised the release of driverless taxis in large cities by 2019, it’s about time we all figured out how they work.

How Do Self-Driving Cars Work?

In short: self-driving cars create and maintain an internal map of their surroundings using lasers, sensors, radars and even sonar. Every system is different and technologies (unsurprisingly) continue to evolve. The ‘map’ is then continually processed by the cars software and a path is plotted. The car is able to accelerate, brake and steer through actuators while algorithms, codes and predictive modelling help the car follow the rules of the road and avoid hitting people and other objects.

Machine Learning and AI

The most important feature of these man-less machines is Machine Learning. This AI (artificial intelligence) tool trains computers to detect pedestrians and differentiate between a bicycle and a motorcycle. Because it’s impossible to write a rule (those algorithms we talked about above) for every situation in this complex world, the cars have to be trained to learn and navigate on their own.

The Future

There are currently several levels of autonomy and researchers have created a scale from 0-5.

Most of us are currently driving either a Level 0 or a Level 1, with Level 0 being a car completely controlled by the human and Level 1 being a car that has features like cruise control. Level 2 offers several systems, like automatic acceleration and braking, but it still requires a human for operation. Moving up to Level 3, the car can – for all intents and purposes – drive on its own, but a human can be alerted to take over under certain circumstances. Level 4 is a fully autonomous car in most situations while Level 5 is fully autonomous and self-drives in every situation.

With Level 5’s driving around several cities in the world on their own, we should expect to see them in the UK sooner than any of us could have expected.

 

Jul 312016
 

The race is currently on to create the next breakthrough in driving – autonomous cars. With technology companies and car manufacturers rigorously testing their own take on the driverless car, how far are we from the new future of motoring?

The support for autonomous / driverless cars was front and centre of recent new government backed legislation in early 2016. The overall aim was to have motorists buying and using self-driving cars by 2020. Chances are, if you’ve followed news within the motoring world, you’ve likely been hearing a lot recently about plans for driverless cars and many are keen to jump on the bandwagon.

Partially autonomous cars are already available now to motorists; with the ‘Parking Assist’ feature widely embodied in a variety of car makes and models.  Furthermore, some cars on the market are already experimenting with the technology themselves such as the high profile Tesla Model S “Autopilot” feature. But this has only been an indication of what a fully driverless car could potentially achieve.

Plans for full autonomous cars have been frequently announced across manufacturers and mainstream companies. Volvo laid down plans earlier in the year regarding their ambitious trial of recruiting members of the British public to test their autonomous technology on a public highway. This particular test will see a limited number of semi-AD cars running in London early next year.  Similarly, The GATEway project has also opened their doors to the public to participate in similar trials – conducted at the UK Smart Mobility Living Lab in Greenwich.

Search engine giants Google have also been flying their flag for driverless cars for a considerable amount of time. They’ve been constantly in the spotlight with their own vehicle throughout its testing phase. However, early reviews from journalists were not thrilled by the car’s performance. This hasn’t been helped by some additional public testing hiccups along the way with the occasional crash and police pulling a test model over for being too slow. It seems Google’s advantage in the race to create the first driverless car has faded. With other companies like Uber and possibilities surrounding Apple’s involvement in the motor industry, it’s clear that this method of transport seems high on agenda’s for the manufacturer and technology companies.

As it stands it’s too early to see who will launch their driverless vehicle first, so don’t expect them to appear on driveways near you just yet. There are still many other areas to address before driverless cars can be properly inducted onto our roads. Motor insurance guidelines, driving tests and other areas of established road rules and regulations also need to be prepared for the dawn of the driverless motor. Despite the backing of UK legislation, the autonomous future seems to be coming though at a cautious pace.