Autonomous vehicles, self-driving vehicles, or robot vehicles. Whatever you like to call them, they all mean the same thing and could be a sight into the future for road users. Autonomous vehicles are cars and trucks that can guide themselves without the need for human drivers to take control. Self-driving technology has the potential to revolutionise the future of motoring. Longer journeys could be easier for us all and motoring as a whole could be more accessible for those with disabilities.
We are closer than ever to the vision of having completely self-driven vehicles on the roads, but they are not yet available commercially. Nonetheless, partially autonomous cars with varying degrees of automation are available to consumers, providing us with an exciting glimpse of what the future may hold.
The critics of this technology believe that such vehicles could bring challenges for human controlled cars and insurance. These potential faults, however, have not hampered the significant amount of research conducted on autonomous vehicles worldwide. Tech industry giants including Google, Uber, and Tesla are funding for their research and have already developed partially autonomous cars ready for the roads.
Autonomous Vehicle Categorisation
Autonomous vehicles are categorised into six different levels from 0-5 according to the varying degrees of self-driving technology that they have:
Level 0 cars are entirely controlled by humans and may only have automated warnings or intervention systems.
Level 1 cars have partial automation with specific systems that come under the self-driven category, including automatic brakes or cruise control; however only one of these functions work at a time.
The level 2 autonomous category car has at least two simultaneous automated functions, but it still requires human assistance.
A level 3 self-driven car can manage safety-critical functions, but they also need the assistance of a human driver in certain conditions.
The level 4 vehicles are considered as highly automated and have an automated driving system that is responsible for monitoring the driving environment.
Finally, level 5 autonomous vehicles are fully automated and are capable of self-driving in all situations without the need for any human intervention.
Autonomous Vehicles on The Road
As of February 2019, there are level-3 self-driving cars on the streets in the US. Various ride-hailing companies are offering rides in autonomous vehicles since the beginning of this year. Whereas In the UK, the government recently announced plans to launch self-driven transport services by 2021, this has encouraged UK based companies to compete against international giants for a homegrown driverless car service.
Coding For Autonomous Vehicles
It is evident that autonomous vehicles do not run on a simple system. Something as complex as an autonomous vehicle requires several cooperating systems. Experts believe that each component may have its own code. For example, the sensors, the communications backbones, the navigation system may have separate codes that have been written by developers. This may include individuals and companies working together to create the perfect code.
This collaboration could mean that there is no standard single language used in coding autonomous vehicles. However, there are speculations that C++ is the basis for the computers on the road. Autonomous driving engineers at Google are likely to have a different way of coding their version of autonomous vehicles to the self-driving technology engineers at Daimler-Benz, Toyota, and others.
Due to the immense interest of the government, technology giants and automotive manufacturers in self-driven car technology, a fully autonomous car may be available to us within the next few years.
It is exciting to witness such a revolutionary technology take shape and transform the way we travel.