- Arya Dharmadhikari(Std X, Abhinav Vidyalay)
The 21st century has played an important role in the advancement of technologies. This development has even revolutionized the Automobile industry. We have developed from fuel-efficient vehicles to Hybrids and EVs and now we are enhancing self-driving vehicles. Tesla, Waymo, Volvo, GM, BMW, Mercedes are among the few companies that have started testing self-driving cars. The leading among them is Waymo, which has developed level 4 autonomy which we will discuss in the next section. So before reaching levels of autonomy we should understand what self-driving cars are and why we require them.
What is a self-driving car?
A self-driving car (also called an autonomous vehicle) is a car that is competent in driving itself without any human intervention. The car has sensors, cameras, lasers, radars, GPS, LIDAR through which the Artificial Intelligence senses the surrounding environment, this helps the car to navigate on its path and to detect signs and obstructions. The car follows a predefined route that is allocated to it and while navigating, if an obstacle is detected by the system then the car reacts accordingly.
Why do we require a self-driving car?
We often say that “Safety is our topmost priority” but the reality is different. According to a study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) around 13 lakh, people all over the world die in car accidents every year due to overspeeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, distraction, poor road infrastructure, and limited safety features. Approximately 94% of the accidents are caused by human error. Embracing self-driving technologies will make roads safer and driving more efficient as it will also minimize the accidents caused by human errors. It will even reduce traffic because the vehicles will have a better awareness of each other and the surroundings. Autonomous cars will allow the user to utilize more time as the time spent driving the car will be eliminated. Most of the vehicles owned by us spend their time in parking lots or an unused state, using self-driving cars we can change this and use them more efficiently.
Levels of Autonomy
The vehicles which we see on the roads fall under one of the Six Levels of Automation defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) which ranges from Level 0 to Level 5.
Level 0: Vehicles that fall under Level 0 are fully controlled by the driver, these cars may or may not provide driver support features such as ABS, traction control, and lane detection. But since they are not assisting in driving the car they are considered at this level.
Level 1: These vehicles have at least one feature which helps the driver in driving the vehicle such as Steering assistance or Autonomous emergency braking, the vehicle cannot operate on its own and thus needs a driver.
Level 2: Cars with level 2 autonomy can accelerate, retardate, and steer themselves but the driver should have full control over the car as the vehicle is not capable of handling extremities.
Level 3: Level 3 cars are capable of driving without the need of a driver and can do tasks such as overtaking a slow-moving vehicle, changing lanes, and can do most of the things needed for an autonomous vehicle, still the driver cannot completely rely on the cars and should supervise and be ready to take control in case of emergency.
Level 4: From Level 4, cars are capable of driving themselves. In circumstances such as system failure, the car can pull over or stop. The car still has certain restrictions because it can only drive within a specific area, mostly urban areas.
Level 5: This is the last level of automation in which the car is completely automatic since it does not require any human intervention. The vehicle can handle all driving conditions. The major difference between Level 4 and Level 5 is that it is not restricted to operating in a particular region.