It could be considered a type of robot as it is a machine capable of carrying out a series of actions by itself without the intervention of a human being, although it does not look like what we think of as a robot (metal humanoid).
This technology is advancing rapidly and there is no turning back.
The first autonomous cars will be marketed from 2020. The first marketed examples may be semi-autonomous cars, cars with a temporary auto-pilot system or different automated tasks (for example, piloted parking), and then fully autonomous cars soon after, which would not require a driver for any situations.
There are various experimental projects and prototypes, and there are already licences for tests in several countries.
Currently, the main research lines focus on developing the necessary and sufficient sensors so that the car is capable of seeing where it has to move, and a processor with the necessary programs for interpreting the information that these sensors gather and to take the consequent decisions.
A fully autonomous car today would require the following sensors:
- 360 degree LIDAR
- Various radars
- High resolution and/or stereoscopic video cameras
- High precision GPS with inertial measurement unit
- Ultrasound sensors
To determine responsibility in the event of an accident, it is planned to fit black boxes that save a record of the driving and thus it can be assessed if it was due to an autonomous driving technical fault, to an accident that was impossible to avoid or driver human error.
In 2007, manufacturers like Volvo set a target for 2020 which is that nobody should be killed or seriously injured in their cars, to do this, they intend to prevent the vehicles being involved in accidents. From here, their interest began in driving help and assistance safety systems as precursors to autonomous driving systems that help to prevent accidents.
Autonomous driving is evolving on various fronts, for military purposes, for goods vehicles with the possibility of forming road trains connected wirelessly that could result in significant improvements in safety, efficiency and comfort for long distance journeys and, lastly, for private passenger cars.
Autonomous driving opens doors to non car manufacturing companies, such as Google who has unveiled a two seater prototype that dispenses with the steering wheel, the pedals and rear view mirrors meaning the driver becomes another passenger.
What Google have not made clear is is whether they intend to start manufacturing cars or if it will supply thistechnology to manufacturers.
The manufacturer of graphics processors Nvidia has new processor technology under development that is capable of extending the possibilities of autonomous driving systems;data gathering and processing technologies that achievereal time management of large quantities of information during very short periods of time, less than a thousandth of a second.
The Nvdia Tegra microprocessor is installed in makes such as Tesla, BMW, Audi and Volkswagen.
Piloted parking is one of the many possibilities for integration of autonomous driving in the car. The aim is to eliminate the human factor from any car parking task, which is why the control of the manoeuvre will be carried out through an application installed in our smartphone. The vehicle will drop you off and collect you without the need to intervene to look for a parking place and park.
The majority of manufacturers involved in the development of autonomous driving systems have indicated that parking is the scenario in which the autonomous vehicle arouses most interest.
For example, BMW uses a laser technology based system to establish a recognition perimeter of 360°, which allows the vehicle to detect any object around it and act accordingly.
The BMW i3 is capable of parking on its own without a driver with a single click on your smartwatch. The car looks for a parking space and then it will park fully autonomously, and the same procedure is followed to pick you up.
Communication between vehicles and infrastructure.
Information exchange between cars will be the next big step. For example, to be able to change lane the system carries out an analysis in real time of the speed of vehicles that are moving around it.
Audi has demonstrated that the technology developed is now capable of tackling practically all the situations that occur in open traffic in a 885 kilometre test. The functionality of the technology is real and applicable to the current world, this journey accompanied by journalists demonstrated that the prototype is capable of carrying out all driving related functions between 0 and 113 km/h.