I believe self-driving cars or Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) will be one of the biggest changes in the society since the dot-com boom. This revolution might be closer than you can imagine. Many friends keep asking me about it so I will tell you a bit of what’s happening in this industry.
The first question is: Hoes does it work?
An easy way to explain it is to think about a person driving. You look at the road to see what is going on to make decisions. You know the rules, and you know how to control the car. Self-driving cars are the same. It has multiple sensors, such as cameras and radars, to understand what’s going on. Then a computer analyses this info to decide what to do. This computer tells the car what to do. All this, in real-time. The AV does not need to be as smart as a human to drive. We don’t use all your intelligence to drive, right? Indeed, some people multitask AF while driving…
The second question is: what will be able to do in the car?
For that question, I will say: it depends. There 6 levels of automation and depending on the level you will be allowed to do more activities in the car but driving.
• Level 0 would be the human driving, without any help from computers. Probably your car is not a Level 0.
• Level 1 is when the vehicle helps you in some way, but the driver is controlling the car the whole time. The car is assisting the driver: One example is the cruise control system.
• Level 2 is partial automation. The system is able to drive some situations, but it’s not smart enough to keep you safe, so the driver must stay aware all the time. At this level, cars are able to break by itself and even steering. I drove some of those last year. It is more common than you imagine.
• Level 3 of automation is when you can give up on driving in specific situations. Riding in a high way where it’s easier for the system to understand and predict what can happen, for example. This will allow you to multitask while driving around.
• Level 4 is when the system is able to operate in multiple situations. Anyway, sometimes the driver will be needed.
• Level 5 is the sweet spot. No human interference will be required at any time. Here drunk and drive will be permitted!
Last most asked question is: when will I be able to buy one?
Again the answer is: it depends. As I mentioned before you can buy some cars with Level 2 of automation already. On the other hand, a system capable of driving does not mean you will be able to use. One of AVs challenges is to understand different environments. It is entirely different to drive in Sao Paulo than Bangkok, right? Most of the cars with level 2 of automation do not have its abilities enabled for us in Brazil.
Level 3 of automation will bring considerable benefits for the users, and it is not far from us. I am pretty sure it will be easy to buy one, for a not so affordable price, before 2020. For level 5 it might take more time, the challenges are huge, even more, if you considered deploying it worldwide.