Autonomous cars: From science fiction to science fact
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Abstract-This document analyses the autonomous vehicle technology from being a science fiction to a science fact.
Key words-autonomous vehicle, GPS, radar, LIDAR, RT
Driverless cars have been dominating the pages of science fiction since the 1800’s, many science journals, movies and novels have documented about the possibility of having a car that will not require a driver in the future. In the last ten years major breakthroughs have been made in moving the concept from the science fiction platform to a reality. The autonomous car is a self-driving automobile that has the capabilities of fulfilling the human transportation needs just like a traditional car. Even though autonomous cars exist as prototypes today, major developments in the recent past show that the vehicles may become more widespread in the near future.
The idea of the autonomous cars has everything to do with science fiction. The disruptive technology has been predicted by both media and literature in the past. Keller et al (1935) predicted about autonomous cars in his book Wonder stories, he explained the implications they would have on people, for example; he stated that these cars will be popular among young people and parents, who will use them to send their children to school safely without the services of a chauffeur(Keller & Bob Olsen,1930).
Some science fiction movies like the Knight Riders and Batman created the idea of autonomous cars and made them look like fantasies. In Batman movies, the fictional Superhero uses the Bat mobile, a black vehicle that is profiled as a sports car; the car functions without a driver (Burton, 1989). The science fiction media and literature purported that the impact the cars will have on the future will be significant in the transport industry.
Despite being predicted in early media and literature, the autonomous car concept has received notable attention in recent media and literature. The movie Robot released in the year 2004 conceptualized what the future looks like in regards to the timeline, technology and aesthetics of driving the autonomous cars (Proyas, 2004). In Peter F Hamilton’s novel, The Commonwealth Saga, the ability of the autonomous car is envisioned; the book uses autonomous cars as a major theme (Hamilton, 2005).
Recent announcements have been made by big companies regarding the development of the autonomous vehicles. Audi, BMW, Nissan and Volvo have showcased their research and dev elopement efforts. From the efforts made, it is evident that autonomous driving will be a key invention in the car industry. The extent to which self driving developments are being made is moving fast, what was once science fiction; will be able to meet reality in the next few years.
The Google Self driving car project, commonly abbreviated as SDC is meant to transform the automobile industry by making autonomous vehicles that will help people move from one location to the other without the need for a driver (Google, 2015). Despite the fact that the project is still in its experimental stage, the company is looking forward to learn the perception of the community regarding the autonomous vehicles; the company’s main goal is to move the project from the world of research into the mainstream. The Mercedes self driving prototype; F015 luxury in motion, is a research vehicle that will be used by the Mercedes company to showcase the kind of cars that are expected in the future (Cava, 2015).
Google self driving car courtesy of Google images
Significant developments are being made to the hardware that is vital in making the autonomous car become a success. Companies are spending a lot of money to develop important components like scanners, sensors, radar and cameras (Jurgen, 2013). One of the major key technologies at the heart of this invention is the computer vision; cars will have to be equipped with high performance and energy efficient processors, which will be able to analyze video that come from the cameras.
The practical hurdles to the widespread adoption of the autonomous vehicle can be great; however, it is imperative to solve the presented technological challenges first. Autonomous cars will make use of other supplementing technologies, for example, GPS, LIDAR, DGPS, RTK and digital maps. Technologies have limitations that will present challenges to the efficient functioning of these vehicles. In consideration of the digital maps, not all parts of the world have been mapped, areas that have been mapped need validation to maintain a high degree of accuracy, since autonomous cars depend on digital maps, it will be impossible to navigate in areas that have not been mapped (Lee, 2004).
The Global positioning system is essential for navigation purposes, however, one of its major limitations is the fact that its accuracy has an error of plus or minus 10meters; this is not practical for locating an object the size of an automobile, which can be 3meters long. The differential global positioning is an enhancement to the GPS; however, its main disadvantage is that it loses approximately 1meter of accuracy for every 150 km. Another concern with these automobiles is the issue of weather; in bad weather, autonomous vehicles may not function. In fog or even snow, the cameras in the vehicle would struggle to pick familiar patterns or objects, the radar systems could become confused (Jamson, Merat, Carsten, & Lai, 2013).
It is likely that self driving cars will revolutionize the way people move around. One of the most significant aspects is the fact that autonomous cars will increase the mobility by enabling people to move without walking or having to wait for a bus or train (Wayner, 2013). The driverless technology will be promising to offer, potentially safer and with more efficient driving systems. By using effective design and proper testing, researchers will confirm whetherthe solutions of automobile have the intended effect.
Self driven car courtesy of Google
Availability of self driving vehicles will change as they grow and people become comfortable using them. The number of these new cars will be an important factor in their overall impact. Technology will be implemented in different ways; this will be dependent on the effectiveness of the respective implementations (Wayner, 2013).The obvious and quantifiable social and economic benefits of full penetration would be significant in accelerating the removal of existing cars and replacing them with the autonomous systems.
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