Driverless Cars – Where is the tech going?
Driverless cars it sounds like something out of a science fiction film but the reality is may not be far away. The idea that at some point in the not too distant future our roads could be filled with driverless cars is quite a scary concept. But just how close are we to this becoming a reality?
Where exactly is the tech associated with driverless cars going and is this necessarily a good, or a bad, thing for motorists on the whole.
Driverless cars – a brief history
The autonomous car, also referred to as the self-driving car, driverless car or even the robotic car has existed as a concept for a lot longer than people realise. As far back as the 1920s, experiments were taking place on the possibility of making an automated car with some promising trials taking place in the 1950s.
The first truly autonomous car appeared in the early 1980s, and since 1987, many of the large car manufacturers have produced their own fully working prototypes and some of these have even been tested on mixed traffic routes open to the public, rather than on test grounds. Generally, tests with driverless cars are carried out in good weather on normal roads but one manufacturer, Ford, have taken their testing to the next level and have been using snow covered roads.
How do driverless cars work?
When it comes to the technology working in a driverless car there are several systems which work in conjunction with each other.
Radar Sensors – Positioned around the car, these monitor the position of nearby vehicles.
Video Cameras -These perform a number of functions; detect traffic lights, read road signs, keep an eye on other vehicles and look out for pedestrians and any other obstacles.
Lidar Sensors – These detect the edges of the road, and identify line markings by the clever use of pulses of light which they bounce off the cars surroundings.
Ultrasonic Sensors – Positioned in the wheels, these detect the position of curbs and other vehicles for the purposes of parking.
A central computer then analyses data from all the sensors in order to manipulate the steering, acceleration and braking.
The big questions
Before any of this can become true reality there are calls for a great many answers to some rather big questions, such as; in terms of insurance in the event of a driverless car being in an accident who will actually be liable if the driver is not in control of the vehicle? And will motorists even still need a licence?
Are we nearly there yet? Well the answer is we are closer than people realise to potentially seeing driverless cars on our roads.
The reality is that cities in Belgium, France Italy and even the UK are already making plans to operate transport systems for driverless cars, whilst Germany the Netherlands and Spain have been testing robotic cars in traffic systems already.
We may not be that far off – as some experts are predicting that 2021 could see fully automated driving become a reality!
Whilst it all sounds like a wonderful idea, only time will tell us if in fact it will be a good thing or not.
When driverless cars are seen more on the roads it will be interesting to see the conversion and how the mix of driverless and driven cars will get on, on the roads together?