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8 Interesting Facts About Self-Driving Cars Worth Knowing5 min read

Sep 10, 2019 4 min
Modern Car Parking Technologies

8 Interesting Facts About Self-Driving Cars Worth Knowing5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Across the globe, autonomous cars or self-driving cars are all the rage in the mobility sector. A self-driving car is capable of sensing the environment and navigating its way around a route without any human inputs. The success of this vehicle relies upon its understanding of the route and its external surroundings.

Technologies including GPS, sonar sensors, cameras, rangefinders, etc. Not all countries have embraced this technology as it continues to be in the testing phase, the time is close when we would see the mobility ecosystem transitioning to an autonomous structure.

Self-Driving Cars

Let us acquaint ourselves with some lesser-known facts about autonomous vehicles to know more about this innovation:-

The first step – 1925

The journey of self-driving cars began more than 100 years ago. A former U.S. army engineer, Francis Houdina found the ‘Houdina Radio Control’ by attaching a radio control system to a car, controlling it with remote control. He drove the vehicle around the streets of New York, displaying the use of multiple features like turning, moderating speed and honking. The spooked passers-by who were crossing the vehicle famously called it the ‘phantom car’ as it was being driven by no one. Overall, the car generated a great sense of fascination and enthusiasm amongst the public regarding driverless cars.

Did You Know Self-Driving Cars Have Multiple Levels

When we think of a self-driving car, our vision is binary; either it drives itself or it does not. But automotive experts break down this process into 5 basic levels. Level 0 is the state of ‘zero automation’ where the system may keep warning systems on, but the rest of the controls are manual. Level 1 is what is popularly termed as ‘driver assistance’ with assistance in steering or braking (but not both together). Cruise Control is a feature that works on this technology.

Level 2 is ‘partial assistance’ where functions like acceleration, brake, and steering are performed by the system; the driver is still in control. Level 3 is termed as ‘conditional automation’ where the driver can move his attention off the road at times. Level 4 is ‘high automation’ where the system can take over the entire driving function, barring to special cases like rainfall and snowfall. Level 5, the final level is ‘full automation’ where no human intervention is required. This is a 100% autonomous system.

Features of Self-Driving Cars You’re Unaware Of

While most of us may not have access to self-driving technology in cars, the line of difference between a regular car and a self-driving car is blurring. Many operators are equipping their models with sensors, GPS, sonar and laser technologies to assist automated functions; automatic braking, cruise control feature, collision avoidance, lane detection, 360-degree camera view, etc. By 2020, over 10 million vehicles are expected to be driving on roads across the globe with self-driving features.

Not Just for Cars and Car Manufacturers

Automotive giants are leading the herd when it comes to developing self-driving technologies, but they are not alone in this quest. Companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, Cisco, and Microsoft have also jumped into this world and are exploring the use of these technologies to build their self-driving vehicles and other tools. They are partnering with automotive companies, research institutions, and the government to invest resources into making these solutions available at a larger scale. Alongside, other mobility solutions like trucks, tractors, cargo machinery among others are also applying these solutions. In 2016, an electric bus hit the roads in Finland with no driver and automotive systems.

Most Accidents Are Caused By Human Errors, Not Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars were designed to eliminate human errors from the driving process. Majority of road accidents are caused by human errors and not directly by external or environmental factors. There is a lot of fear in the minds of customers regarding the safety aspect of driverless cars; an autonomous Uber car crashed into a pedestrian. The first reported accident in an autonomous car occurred when a human driver in a car rear-ended another self-driving car. The statistics show that most such accidents have involved human errors, and overall these numbers are also very less. More research and testing are required until these vehicles become completely safe for the roads, but we can give a verdict that they are fairly safe for usage.

Savings on Tax Money And Insurance

A major chunk of the tax-payers’ money is spent on road accident rehabilitation as these crash costs are covered by using the money we pay as taxes. Self-driving cars are expected to reduce these costs as the number of accidents in a driverless ecosystem is predicted to be a lot lesser. Another area of savings for customers is insurance cover; with the manufacturers investing billions to improve the safety scares associated with driverless cars, the industry predicts them to cover insurance, repairs and warranty costs in the purchase or lease price.

Active Investments By The Government

If you think only automotive manufacturers and technology players are investing in the development of autonomous vehicles, you are mistaken. Governments across the globe are investing trillions of dollars into self-driving technologies and other automated mobility systems. Carnegie Mellon’s Navlab project, where a self-driving car drove from Pittsburgh to San Diego was predominantly funded by the U.S. federal government. Along with these, governments are also paying heed to regulations and bottlenecks that would assist this industry, if dealt with efficiently. 

Driverless Technology May Transcend Into Mars Rover Technology

Nisan MotoCorp. revealed plans to incorporate NASA technology used for Mars rovers into driverless technology to help control their fleet of driverless cars. NASA used a system called Visual Environment for Remote Virtual Exploration (VERVE) which involved human mapping out routes around obstacles. Nissan’s Seamless Autonomous Mobility (SAM) system works on the same principle; the self-driving car can call on a person for help if the car is stuck.

Self-driving cars are inviting both admiration and skepticism by consumers; however, we know that this technology is only going to grow further and is here to stay. With the collective efforts of automobile manufacturers, technology. Firms and the government, this system in time can be perfected and launched for the masses.