With all the news that have been making rounds about autonomous cars, you may be convinced they are just around the corner and it’s a matter of a few months until you drive in one. However, the technology speaks a different language.
Following recent fatal accidents involving self-driving cars, you may have to wait longer to enjoy it. This is an idea that is promising but there’s still a lot of work that is expected to go into its development before the cars are allowed to hit the road. So far, manufacturers have made impressive progress and are working towards making the technology more accurate and safer.
Mapping a technology revolution
To understand the progress that has been made in the development of autonomous cars, you also need to look at the history leading to the current inventions and creations. The initial attempts to develop autonomous vehicles focused on assisted-driving technologies. These technologies, which have been made available in many cars today, include emergency braking, night vision, blind-spot vehicle detection, adaptive cruise control, self-parking systems, and backup cameras. Most of these features were first included in luxury vehicles, then later spread across other models.
While a lot of effort has gone into making autonomous vehicles more capable, the industry is yet to come up with an optimum technology that will be able to minimize risk of failure and accidents.
So far, a few technologies have emerged, including the following:
- Radar over camera. The technology relies on radar sensors and collects information from the cameras.
- Camera over radar. This relies highly on camera systems and supplements this data to the radar
- The hybrid approach. This works with light detection and camera systems as well as sensor-fusion algorithms to interpret the environment at a granular level.
Of all these technologies, the hybrid approach takes up the biggest chunk of the budget allocated to research and development. The combined approach is able to work in areas with high traffic and responds with accurate measurements and granularity to help the vehicles to move through even narrow streets and recognize small objects.
Evolution into full autonomy
Although self-driving technology is growing at a quick pace, it may take longer before you are able to get a car with these systems from your local dealer. The reason is that engineers are yet to guarantee safety and reliability targets that should be met before the vehicles are allowed to navigate public roads. The technology has to be exposed to a lot of uncommon situations and these tests take time, so it could even take another 10 years before these vehicles are made available to the public.
There are still some daunting software challenges that autonomous vehicles have to solve. Such include being able to navigate driving patterns that involve both self-driving vehicles and human drivers. It will take some work to localize the vehicles with a perfect level of accuracy using different sensors. The technology at this point can be said to be a milestone, but more needs to be done to refine it for safety and accuracy.