When will Driver-less cars become a reality? Know All about them!

Autonomous cars

Driver-less cars means cars driven without a driver. The reality check has been done by various automobile companies and by 2018 we can see driver-less cars on road but fully autonomous cars will still be a vision to watch in next 10 years.

Cars without brake pedals, gas or void of any controls is also going to happen but will take a major amount of time. To understand about driver-less cars in deep, we have sorted it for you here:

So, automated driving has levels to be explained set by Society of Automotive Engineers(SAE). Let’s take a walk through all the levels:

  1. SAE Level 0: This in fact is not at all considered under the factor of self driving. You as a human have all the controls of the car. You are the one handling the steering wheel, the brakes and the clutch. The car doesn’t drive or move by itself. The car can only provide you with some warnings by the system like blind spot detection, lane-departure or forward collision warning. So, we can term it as “No Self Driving” level.
  2. SAE Level 1: A little involvement by the system is what level 1 includes. This is a combination of human efforts and system recognition. The system accesses accelerator and steering of the car but not simultaneously. The factors that are handled are adaptive cruise control, keeping the lane or centering the lane assistance, automatic brake for emergency vehicles and anti-lock braking systems. Though all the other dynamic controls have to be handled by human only, few aspects are handled by the system. We can term this as “Limited Assistance”.
  3. SAE Level 2: More than level 1 is what we have access to when we come to level 2. This is probably the level that most of the cars have currently including BMW, Tesla and Mercedes-Benz. With this, the car takes control of the steering and brakes together. It assists to change the lane or to center the car in the lane. Lane-keep assist helps the car to come back to the lane when you drift from the lane accidentally or not. At highways, the car will continue to move on its own for seconds or few minutes until your hand is lightly on the steering wheel. No hard access to steering otherwise that may turn up the wheels.
    These factors influence the working of a car on the road, you can refrain yourself from the trouble of not looking at your cellphone while driving or doing any other activity while in the car. Everything is taken care by the system.
    But what is not taken care is other cars changing lanes or coming to your lane or merging from some other lane. The car will not prompt and if adaptive cruise brake is focusing on a car meters ahead of it then probably it won’t focus to closer car and thus fail in making decision.
    The car will also be not able to take sharp turns on mountains or hills and even hard braking. The car won’t be able to apply hard brakes by itself. If summarized, human existence and assistance is still required. So, can’t be termed as completely autonomous.
  4. SAE Level 3: This level can be termed as the beginning of autonomous driving because there are still few conditions involved. This can handle various situations like taking sharp turns or drive on local roads. But a situation arises where the car can no more handle the traffic scenario or any other difficulty then it would need a human to take over within a span of 15 seconds or whatever is recorded.
    This level is kind of very useless and therefore major companies like Tesla and Ford have thought of skipping this level.
  5. SAE Level 4: Terming it as “Almost Autonomous”, level 4 does everything by itself without any human help. It can handle situations when it senses a car coming by slowing down, if the car breaks down it can call for help with telematics.
    If this can do everything why do we need level 5? Well, it is difficult on level 4 for the car to venture out on unmapped areas or drive when the vision for cameras and LIDAR is blocked. Though human can take over the control to dive into unmapped areas but this should be already planned.
  6. SAE Level 5: Everything that a human does, will be expected out of a car if it is on level 5! This means diving through storms, snow, taking steep turns or even driving on roads with worn-out pavement marking, everything will be made possible by a fully autonomous car. No human assistance will be needed in such cars, and probably there will be no driver seat !

When is each company going to launch?

With so many automobile companies taking interest in the autonomous car making, the first ones to launch by 2018, will be Tesla, Audi and GM. According to GM’s CEO Mary Barra “The company expect[s] to be the first high-volume [read: other than Tesla] auto manufacturer to build fully autonomous vehicles.”

As per Elon Musk, Tesla’s autonomous car will be on roads and can drive from LA to New York by 2018.

According to Audi’s CEO, Audi A8 Sedan Level-3 equipped will be on roads by 2018 and expects to launch the fully autonomous version of it by the year 2020.

In fact, as per Ford’s CEO they are not even planning to launch level-3 car but will jump to level-4 and come with their autonomous car by 2021. Toyota, Google all plan to launch by 2020. Renault-Nissan will join the league by 2025. BMW in collaboration with Intel is eyeing on the launch by 2021.

What are the issues that are faced?

Issues have a never ending list, as this is going to change the era of driving cars! Not an easy pill to digest by the people and so it would surely take time to adapt and run according to plans. The prime factor that will be a roadblock is managing with the traffic rules and thus it will be required to make special laws for autonomous cars. Everyone expects a single line of similar rules to be worked in the whole US.

Insurance planning will be another hurdle. It will be difficult to manage the price for insurance and also who will be held responsible in case any accident happens.

The cars may cost higher bucks than the normal ones as it is well equipped with all facilities and tools. Cutting down car cost will be a major issue faced by the automobile companies.

Though there are people who will be benefited too. Driving through heavy traffic roads, you can enjoy your own leisure time, no worries about accidents or injuries, long rides can be enjoyed with ease, drink and drive won’t be an issue anymore, people with disabilities will have an upper hand and so many other riding issues are tackled down. It won’t be an impossible dream to catch anymore. There will be instances when we will thank technology! And may be instances when we will feel sorry for it but either way humans are in benefit!

With more such factors, We really look forward to driver-less cars making their way in the near future.

Ethical Decision making for Driver-less Autonomous cars

Ethical Decision for autonomous vehicles

Who will decide that whether striking a lamp post off its root is not a big deal but to a human being it is? Who will teach an autonomous car the ethical value of life?

With similar questions, the inventors of autonomous cars have been dozed off here and there. Explanations have been asked as to how will a car decide on the spot which decision is good to make while in a dilemma? According to reports, the autonomous cars have been trained ethically to make decisions on road just like a human would do.

According to few researchers from the University of Osnabruck in Germany, teaching a driver-less car to be ethically equipped using algorithms is not a tedious task. How will this work?

During one research plan, people were made to experience virtual reality simulations in intense traffic scenarios. How did humans react while seeing an animal, a person or an inanimate object is how priority was assigned to each. These priorities are then set as values to a machine and therefore autonomous cars can make a human decision while on roads.

But there are situations when even a human is confused as to apply brakes or rather get hurt. Situations like what to do if a dog suddenly comes in front of your vehicle, do you keep moving or you take a sudden turn causing an accident by hurting someone else? Who is responsible for taking such decisions and if something happens whom will we blame?

According to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology :“The algorithms that control [autonomous vehicles] will need to embed moral principles guiding their decisions in situations of unavoidable harm,” In cases where the car has to make a decision on whether to take a sudden turn and hurt the pedestrians or harm the passengers, then the decision should be don’t harm the pedestrians if that means hurting its own passengers. The law makers have to face the obligations of making laws for such situations.

The cars are well equipped with sensors, LIDAR and cameras to inspect the conditions and thus take a decision. Autonomous cars visualize the road conditions, depend on speed of the object that comes in the way. The cars shouldn’t only be ethically able but also fast enough to calculate the dangerous aspects and apply the results.

This doesn’t end the problem here, but one more aspect comes into picture and that is what if the controls are hacked by some anonymous person. He takes over the board and accesses it for his own good. This may lead to yet another difficulty in maintaining road safety.

What can possibly be done?

This situation is no piece of cake. Whether driven by a human or an electric car, the decision making power can fail at times. The cars can be only equipped with making the most optimized decision without breaking the law and also affecting minimum damage both on ground levels and human life.

If ethically cars are programmed, our risk of getting into complex situations and depending on the car will be minimized big time!! Let’s see what all comes forth as the solution!


Renault easy on Toll booths for autonomous cars

Renault for autonomous cars

Over these few months with the advancement of technology in autonomous cars, we have been witnessing major changes with respect to their behavior in different situations. Building an autonomous car is in itself a big deal, from managing the in style of the car to equipping it with cameras and LIDARs, everything is done well with collaboration. No automobile company can do the task of building up an autonomous car by themselves and thus it required a lot of collaboration with tech companies as well.

Now, on road situations are typical than this. By far everyone noticed that almost all situations are covered, but Renault came up with the concept of managing the Toll booths with autonomous cars. This was a bigger question now how to pay toll when you are inside an autonomous car?While dealing with situations like how to spot a pedestrian or how to avoid accidental situations, the companies overlooked the fact that how will an autonomous car stop and pay for toll when all it was built was for humans to handle.

To solve the nitty-gritty aspects of this problem, Renault recently collaborated with a French Road toll operator Sanef that manages around 1700 km of road in France. This is being tested in A13 freeway in Normandy since 2016 and is expected to pack up by 2018.

As per Renault’s Mathew “Maximizing safety for drivers, passengers and others with autonomous cars requires several stakeholders in both government and the private sector working together, each bringing unique expertise.”

How will this work?

Well, reportedly, the system will use a short range Wi-Fi connection that will automatically sensor an upcoming toll booth and indicate the car about its presence, 1 km in advance. Using sensors and HD map solutions, the car then will automatically slow down its speed and will follow the toll lane of automated cars. This modification in cars is not tough to embrace and requires very less amount of trouble to make changes in the design part.

What are the issues still?

The major issue that follows is the fact that Sanef’s toll system in France is only specific to Renault vehicles with this collaboration. In US itself, there are various kind of toll systems, EZ pass being the largest system managed in sixteen North East and north central states.

How can we curb this issue then?

Either one way we can make a single standardized toll system that works the same all over. Like suppose EZ pass system is adapted as the toll system for every country then paying toll and traveling for autonomous cars will be easy and quick.

Secondly, auto license plate recognition can be done. This is done by scanning the license plate number with the help of sensors and cameras to capture the license plate number. The ones found at wrong situations will be billed by the Turnpike authority or any in such case.

Looking at various situations, it is not going to be an easy ride for the autonomous cars. We have been living in a world where doing cashless payments is also not so full fledged now. Then giving over the control of your car to a robotic technologies will be hard to grasp. Apart form humans, there will be conditions and situations which are still under observation as to how to cope up with them. If, this is the future then we need to collaborate and look out for it!


Autonomous Car Systems: How Do They Work?

Cars have been around for years now, with one of the earliest cars ever made was back in 1769. Over the course of three centuries, the motor car has evolved into more than just a machine made for convenience. The car as we know it today has transformed into a tool for comfort and competition. While the internal mechanics and general purpose of cars has evolved through the decades, one of the main components of the driving experience i.e. the driver behind the wheel always remained constant. However, the rapid advancements in various technological fields is all set to change that.

Google is one among many corporate giants that have begun developing autonomous cars
Google is one among many corporate giants that have begun developing autonomous cars

The birth of transistors and subsequent developments in the fields of digital computing has led to advanced AI (artificial intelligence) projects from various corporations such as Google, Apple, Boston Dynamics and Honda. Despite the sci-fi legacy of artificial intelligence, we are indeed implementing AI in almost every possible field already. While most real world applications of AI is quite dull, some establishments produce immensely interesting and questionable products such as the very first non-human world chess champion (IBM’s Deep Blue) to a rat brain (The SyNAPSE Project).

The automotive industry too has begun the march towards AI. During the late 20th and early 21st century, contemporary advancements in semiconductor technology disallowed the implementation of AI in cars. These days, premium car makers such as Mercedes Benz, Audi and BMW now fit various AI cores in numerous safety systems. Car manufacturers are now taking the next step into the future: autonomous vehicles.

Mercedes Benz Brabus Rocket 900 Front Three Quarter
The Mercedes Benz S Class is an example of a car with a multitude of sensors and CPUs that constantly monitor the car’s environment as well as its occupants to maximize safety

Autonomous driving in its most basic sense is a vehicle that drives itself with the belief that a inorganic machine behind the wheel should theoretically reduce the number of accidents that occur on the road. While humans fall prey to distractions, rage, carelessness or general ineptitude, a machine specifically designed to manage traffic and navigate itself to a destination does not drop the ball. The CPU or computer of the car manages the steering, brake, throttle and gear position and constantly monitors its surroundings for dangers that lie ahead. Various manufacturers implement driverless cars in various different ways. Currently, Tesla, BMW, Audi and Google have been making headlines for their achievements in the field of autonomous driving.

BMW's take on the autonomous vehicle can even hold a powerslide
BMW’s take on the autonomous vehicle can even hold a powerslide

For an autonomous system to navigate itself, it must first be able “see”. For this, common camera systems are not enough as raw video/image data is near impossible to accurately decipher by our silicon counterparts (this is also the basic idea behind captcha or Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart). For better accuracy and resolution, most autonomous cars implement a combination of 360 degree RADAR & LIDAR systems, ultrasonic sensors and cameras. RADAR and LIDAR systems implement radio waves and laser beams respectively.

These radio waves and lasers are shot in every possible direction and the time taken for them to return is measured. This provides the distance between the point of origin (car) and the obstacle (wall, other cars, pedestrian etc). All these systems help generate a 3D map of the environment and endows the car with “sight”. For a better understanding of what a car perceives as vision, ScanLAB Projects conducted an experiment for the New York Times providing insight into the ocular capabilities of a driverless car.

The on-board computer’s memory may also store map data and high resolution images of streets to compare with its immediate surroundings and determine where it is and where it should be going. The on board computer also contains algorithms on basic road etiquette, ovetaking maneuvers, laws that govern the road and more importantly collision avoidance tactics. To avoid any mishaps on the road, most drivers must have rapid response times. While computer systems these days are immensely powerful, speed is of the essence. As such, developers such as Google make use remote computer farms for computation capability to ensure the on-board systems are under less stress and focus more on immediate responses. The computer then adjusts the steering, throttle and gears to pilot itself to the specified destination.

Numerous manufacturers are now participating in the driverless car generation
Numerous manufacturers are now participating in the driverless car generation

Driving is a skill developed over time. Over the course of many years, a driver learns where the potholes maybe, how reliably his car handles in various weather conditions, estimating possible collision situations and molding (this very human characteristic may prove to be a boon or bane depending on circumstances) his fellow drivers’ mental state, driving standards and etiquette to adjust his driving style. With an autonomous car however, none of these things are possible as these scenarios are decidedly anthropomorphic in nature. The perils of autonomous driving are multiple.

However, the pros far exceed the cons and the rise of general AI will usher in a new era for humans and cars alike.