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How do Self-Driving cars work?

by Varun Sachdev
0 comment 5 minutes read

“Self-driving cars are the natural extension of active safety and obviously something we should do”

~Elon Musk

Though Artificial Intelligence is being used in numerous fields nowadays, the most common and the most advanced field in which it is being used is the self-driving car technology or the autonomous car technology in which the vehicle is made intelligent enough to drive on its own using software, algorithms and decision making. Such vehicles require minimal effort by the driver and sometimes require no driver at all. It is capable of sensing the environment and navigating on its own by using artificial intelligence. 

In 2015, the install rate of Artificial Intelligence systems in vehicles was merely 8%; this number is expected to go up to 109% in 2025. Through the techniques like sensor fusion and deep learning, researchers have been successful in developing a technology that helps in framing a 3D map of all the activities and actions that are taking place around the vehicle and act accordingly. Many big tech companies like Google, Tesla and Ford are investing millions of dollars to come up with new technology to inculcate AI in their cars and commercialise them. Recently, Apple was spotted testing its own AI technology in Lexus cars.

Hardware and sofware work together to identify objects and make decisions

Artificial Intelligence is not only limited to autonomous driving. Researchers have discovered that AI engines can be used to make driving more convenient and comfortable for both the driver and the passengers. By machine learning and natural language processing it is possible to design in-car assistants that are activated by voice commands and perform the assigned actions. 

Artificial Intelligence is coupled with various car systems including cameras, radars and other sensors to develop the self-driving car technology which requires minimal or absolutely no effort to drive a car. This is a great advancement in the field of automobiles and technology. Modern self-driving cars use Bayesian Simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) algorithms, which gather data obtained from many sensors and combine with the current location and map updates. The sensors that are used in such cars include lidar and stereo vision, GPS and IMU. 


Image result for tesla model x
Tesla Model X

Led by Elon Musk, Tesla Motors, one of the biggest companies in terms of innovation and technology in the field of batteries and automobiles has been working on artificial intelligence and has inculcated it into their car models and have termed it as the Tesla Autopilot. 

Tesla’s Autopilot system uses multiple sensors located all around the car. The car understands its surroundings with the help of these sensors and with the help of artificial intelligence. 

The hardware includes a forward radar that is capable of seeing through heavy rain, dusty and foggy conditions, a forward-looking camera, an assist brake system and 12 long range ultrasonic sensors located around the car, a set of 8 cameras with 360 degrees visibility and a GPS. The sensors are capable of sensing 16 feet around the vehicle at any speed in every direction. The detection of cars is done with the help of a radar. Artificial intelligence coupled with the camera systems help the car to understand its obstacles. The camera further detect the lane markings, road signs, pedestrians and highlights them in color – coded boxes. All this helps the car to drive by itself. One of the great features of Autopilot is that the car can park itself on its own in any position. 

Tesla Autopilot in action

The driving features of tesla’s autopilot includes updates, adaptive cruise control, auto-park, auto-steer, alerts, speed assist, forward collision warning. 

In the coming future, AI will be an integral part of our lives, it will a part of our basic activities and it will change the way we live. AI in the field of vehicles has many applications. It can automatically divert the car to a gas or fuel station when it detects that the car is low on fuel. According to the destination, it can find the shortest possible route and can direct the car from the path with least traffic. Speech recognition can be installed in the car module by the help of virtual assistance technologies. Thus, Artificial Intelligence is going to re-shape our future and is impacting every field in the world. 

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