Autonomous Cars

Autonomous Cars and How they Work


“Galleria fotografica di Tesla Model S sottoposta a tuning!” by automobileitalia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By: Evan Nanthavong, Journalist

“Tesla Model S Fog Lights” by jtjdt is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Have you ever wished the car you are driving could drive itself without any effort coming from you at all? In the 1980s, most would’ve thought this was impossible, but right now we have cars that can already do this partially. Keep in mind these cars aren’t 100% autonomous yet, but they do have implemented self-driving features.

One of the more popular car brands implementing self-driving features into their car models would be Tesla–specifically, the Tesla Model S. This specific model has some pretty unique self-driving features. These self-driving features include lane centering, automatic lane changing, auto parking, Summoning your car from a nearby parking lot with the push of a button.

Even though cars are self-driven, they all are to a certain extent. Some have more components than others, yet they are all still autonomous cars. There are six levels of autonomy, and each autonomous car falls somewhere on the spectrum. Level 0 is no automatic features at all, and the car is driven manually. Level 1  is when it contains 1 automatic component/system. Level 2 is when the car has directional and speed control. Levels 0-2 are all situations where the driver is in control and monitoring what happens. Level 3 is when the car can detect its surroundings. Levels 4 indicate is automatous but can’t handle certain circumstances and conditions. Lastly, level 5 is when the car fully automatous during any condition and circumstance. Judging from today’s released cars we are probably around the 2-3 range.

Although the thought of autonomous cars and how they work can be very complex it boils down to a couple of components. Autonomous cars basically have a fabricated map of their surroundings created by information gathered by the car. This information is gathered in a variety of different ways. It can be gathered by devices including radar, sonar, video capturing devices,  and many different varying lasers. With all this information the car plans a safe route to the inputted destination.

In the past, autonomous cars were well out of our reach, but today we have partially autonomous cars. They will continue improving as time goes on. In the future, we may even live a society where it would be strange not to drive a fully autonomous car that can drive itself under any condition or circumstance.

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