Self-driving car technology sets out to improve our world
What makes a car self-driving?
Believe it or not, there are FIVE automation levels or categories.
Level 1: Driver assistance
ADAS (advanced driver assistant system) includes such features as cruise control, anti-lock braking system, and traction control system. The driver must remain 100% in control but receives some assistance from the ADAS.
Level 2: Partial Automation
The driver still needs to stay engaged while driving but receives even more assistance from the ADAS, such as controlling both accelerating/decelerating and steering at the same time. An example of this is a backup camera.
Level 3: Conditional Automation
The ADS (automated driving system) involves environmental detection capabilities such as pedestrian protection system, lane change assistance, and intersection assistance, allowing the car to react to its environment on its own. However the human driver is still required to remain alert and prepared to step in and take control when necessary.
Level 4: High Automation
The ADS is able to operate and perform all driving functions on its own, including monitoring its environment, in certain circumstances such as within a specified area, which is known as geofencing. The human driver may relinquish their attention to the functions but still has the ability to override if so desired. One of the biggest proposed uses for this level of automation is for ride sharing.
Level 5: Full Automation
Full automation is the driving of the future as we’ve all seen and been promised for decades in futuristic movies such as Minority Report, Knight Rider, and Time Cop. These cars will require no driver assistance, in fact ‘drivers’ will become ‘passengers’ as they are able to conduct business meetings, work on their latest hobby or take a nap while being chauffeured around by a level 5 automation vehicle.
What technology is enabling self-driving cars to advance?
Navigational systems such as GPS and GNSS have already become a well-known and well-utilized technology in many parts of the world. They are standard now for many human drivers each time they get behind the wheel, whether for the commute to and from work to a weekend getaway. However, knowing exactly where one is at all times is even more important for a car without a human driver. Driverless cars need to know, within centimeters, where they are located on the road, within the traffic lane or in a parking spot. It must be possible for extremely reliable coordinates to be continually monitored and evaluated to ensure a safe ride for all passengers.
The Mosaic 51 360-degree camera can connect up to 4 GNSS networks simultaneously (GPS, Galileo, Glonass and BeiDou) for precision measured in centimeters. With the use of Dead Reckoning, it can even allow for positioning in tunnels and sub 5-meter accuracy. Nothing can hide from such detection.
Sensors and Radar
Another vitally important technology that offers safety to the passengers of a driverless vehicle, is the use of sensors and radar built into the car. These sensors include LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), cameras, IMU (inertial measurement unit) and radar. The combination of these sensors enable the vehicle to react accordingly to various changes during the trip.
While most cameras on the market currently offer a 6-axis IMU, the designers at Mosaic decided to step it up a notch and increased that by 50% and now offer the only camera out there that has a 9-axis IMU. Changes in the environment and objects in the vicinity can be ‘seen’ and dealt with to ensure a safe ride.
Precise HD mapping
High Definition maps are ultra, highly precise maps, able to measure accurately down to the centimeter. This is crucial for any autonomous vehicle and for any company in the process of creating a self-driving car. HD maps are playing a large role in the testing and design of driverless cars. These vehicles are robots and robots require exceptional precise instructions in order to comprehend and react correctly to their environment.
Why would you settle for 8K, 10K or even 11K resolution when you can get an even highest definition camera? Available at 12K resolution, the Mosaic 51 has six 12-megapixel image sensors for the ultimate in HD mapping.
In order that self-driving cars are able to accurately respond to any potentially hazardous condition, they must be able to correctly identify objects on the road. An intelligent object detection system is necessary for mobile mapping purposes, which when performed on a regular basis, keeps the map in real-time, so that the driverless car can choose the best option for a driving route. Image recognition is also important for on-the-spot object recognition, allowing the vehicle to react to any sudden risks in the surrounding areas.
With an advanced intelligent object detection system, the Mosaic 51 knows what a pothole, a street lamp and a road sign are and can aid self-driving cars in avoiding such dangerous obstacles.
Dedicated Short Range Communications
Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) is the technology which allows vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, permitting cars to talk with each other or with the surrounding infrastructure. This will aid in the prevention of accidents and collisions on the roadways between cars or between a vehicle and a pedestrian.
As we can see, the technology that has been developed in the last several decades has significantly assisted in the ability to create self driving cars and will grant numerous advantages of driverless cars. So let's have a look at what these advantages are.
What are the benefits of self-driving cars?
Driverless cars of the future will offer a wide array of benefits for their passengers, the economy, the health system and even themselves. Here are 11 advantages of driverless cars and the changes that are coming our way soon.
“We’re only human” means we make mistakes. No more mistakes on the roads.
Self-driving cars will help reduce the number of automobile crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the United States attributes 94% of all accidents to driver errors. In 2018 alone, there were a reported 36,560 deaths due to motor vehicle accidents in the United States.
Autonomous cars will reduce the hazards from risky behavior such as impaired, drunk, drugged driving, reckless speeding, and distracted drivers by quite literally, taking the wheel from them.
Freedom of movement and dignity restored to millions
Autonomous vehicles will grant those with handicaps and disabilities, such as blindness, paralyzation, and mental disabilities, as well as seniors, more autonomy and independence. Besides the obvious reasons for wanting a car such as to go to and from work and to visit family, self-driving cars will ensure that these members of society won’t miss a doctor’s appointment again as is quite common at present time, leading to more and higher medical expenses down the road.
The Ruderman Foundation published a Ruderman White Paper in which a study found that self-driving cars could potentially allow 2 million employment opportunities to become available to citizens with disabilities. This technology has the ability to personally affect 1 in 5 Americans who have a disability, not to mention their friends, families and loved ones who will also be affected.
Reducing risks and saving time means saving money
Reduced crashes means reduced costs for those involved in the accident - in hospital bills, post accident therapy, vehicle repair and sick leave from work. Also, fewer accidents on the road means that car insurance companies will have to lower rates and consumers will save greatly.
Driverless cars will be able to optimize driving conditions This includes utilizing cruise control and gradual and smooth acceleration and deceleration, all of which contribute to a steady flow of traffic rather than the constant bursts of hitting the gas pedal and then the brakes.
The ability to communicate with other self-driving cars will allow networked pod car to create a train-like structure which would further increase optimized driving and reduce fuel economy.
Use your time in the car for something other than driving
No more wasted time sitting in traffic, rather gain back nearly an hour each day in which you can do something you’ve had on your list or just relax and zone out. One study by McKinsey found that commutes could save up to 50 minutes each day but using an autonomous vehicle.
For the year 2019, Bogota, Rio de Janeiro and México City ranked as the cities with the highest hours lost to congestion in the world at 191 hours, 190 hours and 158 hours respectively. In the United States, the top cities are Boston (149 hours), Chicago (145 hours) and Philadelphia (142 hours). If you want to see how much time is lost in congestion based on your city of residence, check out this handy guide from INRIX.
And it’s not just the driving that is wasting precious time. Looking for parking can take considerable time, so driverless cars will be able to do the tedious work of looking for a parking place at the airport, shopping mall or in the middle of the city, so you don’t have to.
Traffic jams will become a thing of the past
Traffic and congestion happen for two reasons: accidents and too little capacity for the vehicles on the road.
By lowering automotive accidents there will be less traffic due to lane closures and the much hater 'rubberneckers.’ But that’s not all.
One study conducted by various leaders in the field of traffic flow theory and transportation engineering from Rutgers University, Temple University, the University of Arizona and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found that self-driving cars will be able to adapt their speeds based on the normal traffic and reduce build up of traffic, eliminating ‘stop and go waves’ also known as ‘phantom traffic jams’ and thereby reducing total fuel consumption by up to 40%.
Research by Rand’s Autonomous Vehicle Technology guide found evidence that autonomous vehicles could increase lane capacity by up to 500% which means 5 times more vehicles per lane per hour. Higher capacity will lead to lower congestion.
A win-win for Mother Nature
Less accidents and less congestion means less traffic on the roads, which results in less idling of cars, a huge source of fuel emissions. One study estimates that emissions could potentially be reduced up to 60% according to one source.
Many are looking at driverless cars as a solution for commuters who do not have access to public transportation nor their own vehicle. Ride sharing will become a major component in the autonomous vehicle revolution. With more people sharing rides to and from work, once again, there will be fewer cars on the roads and this will in turn reduce fuel consumption and vehicle emissions.
Reduce short haul flights
All the luxuries of a flight, without leaving the ground.
If autonomous vehicles are anything like what we’ve seen in movies, then they will have incredibly comfortable seats that morph into beds and the window shades go up at night for added privacy or a fully equipped office space.
One example of this is the Volvo 360C which is nearly a hotel on wheels. It gives passengers the ability to relax, sleep or work while on the go, much the same as many air-commuters do on a daily or weekly basis, jetting from one meeting in NYC at 9 a.m. to a meeting in D.C. at 4 p.m.
Economic Benefits of Self Driving Cars
Money talks, and it’s saying, “get me a self-driving car!”
The ability for those with debilitating conditions to drive themselves leads to many millions of missed doctors appointments. The U.S. economy on average loses up to $19 billion each year in medical expenses due to missed appointments for patients with handicaps or disabilities, which result in more severe medical attention needed down the road.
One study by the UK Economic Opportunity found that the UK economy could recoup £20 billion for the time saved commuting, while the Ruderman Foundation study concluded that the American economy could recover up to $1.3 trillion from fuel costs, productivity gains and accident prevention.
Another study by the Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that in 2010 accidents cost the U.S. $242 billion in economic activity, of which $57.6 billion was lost in workplace productivity, and another $594 billion was lost due to deaths and a reduced quality of life from injuries sustained in accidents. By making the roads safer, the economic benefits of self driving cars will certainly be reaped.
Free up Parking Spaces
Regain prime real estate which had been lost to parking
Boston has been on the forefront of driverless car technology as much testing is done there. The Boston Consulting Group, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum conducted a study and found that driverless vehicles will only require about half of the city’s current parking. This liberated space could be repurposed for more enjoyable things such as apartment buildings, parks and public plazas.
Parking spaces in private homes will also be free up as cars will not be required to park directly at a family’s home. Cars could park further away from the homes of the owners, reducing the need for a garage or driveway and thereby freeing up space for yards and green spaces.
Change City Landscapes
Reshaping our cities and towns
Cities were once the shining mecca for those wanting to live the high life. But now honking cars, parking lots and traffic jams have made these havens a nightmare and many are starting to flee cities for more peace and quiet in smaller towns. Autonomous vehicles could change all of that and bring people flocking back to the cities.
Cars traveling closer together means less road space needed, allowing more room for bike paths and sidewalks which in turn can create a more pedestrian-friendly city and incentivizing people to move back to cities.
What are the possible downsides to self-driving cars?
Despite all of the benefits of self-driving cars, there are of course several disadvantages. But that’s for a different day. Stay tuned.