Top 5 most important technologies that underpins autonomous vehicles

Autonomous Vehicles are the future....

Autonomous cars will be capable of operating with minimal (level 3 or 4 Autonomy), or even zero (level 5 Autonomy) human driver input. These vehicles will vary from complexity depending on the level of autonomy. The higher level of autonomy will see the transfer of power from human driver to the on-board Artificial Intelligence (the dreaded AI); however, for the car to be able to drive itself, it needs to depend on number of pre-existing technologies.

Here are five most important technologies; I believe that underpins autonomous vehicles:

1 - Artificial intelligence

Autonomous cars wouldn't be possible without artificial intelligence. These vehicles are controlled by AI programs that are developed and trained through machine learning to be able to read the data from a variety of sensors built into a vehicle and then determine the most appropriate action in any given situation.

2 - Drive-by-wire

In lay man terms, we are replacing the traditional mechanical controls with electrical connections and controls. This makes it a lot easier for the on-board AI (Artificial Intelligence) to control each individual system, like steering (Steer-by-Wire), acceleration (Electronic Throttle Control or ETC), and braking (Break-by-Wire).

ETC has been accepted as the safest type of drive–by-wire and easiest to implement, and with introduction of additional fail-safe designs, the on-board AI can simply close of the throttle system by stopping the signal received from pedal sensor, ensuring gradual decrease in acceleration and stopping the vehicle safely.

Brake-by-Wire is the opposite side of the coin to ETC, and is considered the most dangerous technology to implement. The good old anti-lock brake system (ABS) is the precursors of modern brake-by-wire tech, other technologies such as Electronic Stability Control, traction control and automatic breaking depend on ABS. Brake-by-Wire replaces the hydraulic parts with additional sensors which monitor how much force is needed at each wheel to halt the vehicle.

Vehicles equipped with steer-by-wire technology, lack any physical connection between the steering wheel and the tires. Steer-by-wire systems don’t technically need to use steering wheels at all. When a steering wheel is used, some type of steering feel emulator is typically used to provide the driver with feedback.

3 - Lane-keeping

These systems were designed to help human drivers avoid drifting out of their lane in traffic, but autonomous vehicles use many of the same types of sensors and techniques. The lane departure warning technology fall into three primary categories:

LDW or lane Departure Warning is considered least invasive and warns the driver when the vehicle drifts form the centre of its lane.

LKA or Lane Keeping Assist is a step up from LDW. When the vehicle drifts too far from one side or the other, and the driver fails to correct the position, the system applies torque wheel, which effectively brings the vehicle back to the centre of the lane.

LCA, also knowns as Lane Centring Assist, is the most intrusive form of lane keeping technology. No warning is given and the vehicle is capable of correcting the vehicle trajectory and keep the vehicle cantered in its lane at all times.

4 - Automatic braking

This was originally designed to prevent accidents by automatically applying the brakes in situations where the driver is too slow to act. Each car manufacturer has its own automatic braking system technology, but they all rely on some type of sensor input.

Irrespective of system input (lasers, radar, or video data), the sensor input is then used to determine if there are any objects present in the path of the vehicle. Once an object is detected, the system can compares the speed of the vehicle and the speed of the object in front of it. A significant speed differential may indicate that a collision is likely to occur, in which case the system is capable of automatically activating the brakes.

5 - Adaptive cruise control

This is another system that was originally designed to assist drivers, in this case by dynamically increasing and decreasing speed relative to the surrounding traffic. Autonomous cars have to do this same basic task in addition to everything else the driver would normally do.

Some adaptive cruise control systems are also integrated with pre-crash technologies, like adaptive braking, and other ADAS like lane departure warning systems. As I have mentioned in previous articles, the transfer of data between vehicles will enhance the autonomous driving, and we could see cooperative adaptive cruise control systems that utilize information from other vehicles and transmit information to other vehicles.

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Comments (50)

  • We already have autonomous cars. They're called taxis.

      2 years ago
  • If I had an autonomous car, it would certainly not be my only car. I would only use it for stuff like longer distance trips in traffic, which my other *petrol & manual* car would be used for shorter commutes and fun drivinf

      2 years ago
  • By the way, think of this. Currently we're talking about AI that drives most of the time, with a human driver taking over if the IA becomes confused - say, the road is substandard, or the situation is generally weird.

    Lets assume such technology exists. Just for the sake of this argument.

    Now lets think what will happen after one generation of people driving AIs. Driving is a skill. It needs to be developed by exposure to driving. But people won't be driving.

    So now what happens when an AI asks the driver to take over? When all drivers are effectively novice and inexperienced, as well as terrified of unusual responsibility. And - ! - the situation is uncommon at least, since the AI had failed. So we're asking somebody who don't know how to drive to take over in an uncommon situation on a short notice.

    What could possibly go wrong?

      2 years ago
    • This leads back to a question raised by the industry, at what stage getting a driving licence becomes thing of the past. The current thinking is muddied badly. Level 4 autonomy will still need the occupants to hold a valid license, however,...

      Read more
        2 years ago
    • but it's a slightly different angle. It's one thing to have a fully automated car that can drive you, where you don't ever have to take control, but one that you can drive yourself.

      It's a very different thing to have a car that you can never...

      Read more
        2 years ago
  • This is just a type of transportation for people who hate driving but want to go faster than a bus and don't have the time to wait the bus. But for car guys, it's shit, because you don't have the driving pleasure

      2 years ago
  • I know pretty much everyone one here, myself included are car and driving enthusiasts, but I for one am all for autonomous driving for a number of reasons, but I don't like the half assed systems. It should be all or nothing. I don't like the idea that when I am driving, the car will break automatically, or steer. If the car isn't smart enough to be in complete control, I am certainly not going to trust it to just chime in from time to time. That being said, when we get to full automony, I will be one of the first in line so I can kick back with a glass of wine and watch netflix rather than deal with traffic. Another point, and this is my favorite, is not MY driving ability, but the lack there of of the very high percentage of complete morons on the road currently who can't drive and should never have had their license in the first place. Think of how much better it will be to drive when you won't have to deal with the idiots who can't stop stuffing their face and playing on their stupid phones long enough to pay attention to the road for 5 seconds..

      2 years ago