How Do Self-Driving Cars Work?

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How Do Self-Driving Cars Work?

Last updated on: May 30, 2024

Do you ever wonder how self-driving cars can seemingly drive themselves? 

We’ve all seen them on the news, but how do they actually work? Well, today we’re gonna dive into that exact question and explain what makes these autonomous vehicles tick. 

We’ll cover everything about modern self-driving technology – so get ready for a deep dive!

What Exactly is a Self-Driving Car?

Self-driving cars have been making headlines recently, and car buyers are increasingly interested in these vehicles. 

But what exactly is a self-driving car?

Simply put, a self-driving car is a vehicle that operates without the need for a human driver. This is made possible through a combination of various technologies, including:

  1. Sensors
  2. Cameras
  3. Radar
  4. Artificial intelligence

By using these tools, the car can detect obstacles, navigate its surroundings, and travel between destinations on its own. 

To be considered fully autonomous, the vehicle must be able to do all of this without any human intervention. 

The potential benefits of self-driving cars are wide-ranging, from improved safety on the roads to greater accessibility for people who are unable to drive. 

As the technology continues to develop, it’s likely that we’ll see more and more self-driving cars on our roads in the coming years.

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How Do Self-Driving Cars Work?

Self-driving cars operate by utilising a combination of sensors, algorithms, machine learning, and processors.

These vehicles are equipped with an array of sensors, including:

  1. Radar
  2. Video cameras
  3. Lidar sensors
  4. Ultrasonic sensors

These sensors work together to gather information about the car’s surroundings and detect potential obstacles. 

The software then processes this data to plot a path and sends instructions to the car’s actuators for acceleration, braking, and steering. 

When driving, obstacle avoidance algorithms, hard-coded rules, predictive modelling, and object recognition guide a vehicle in following traffic rules and avoiding obstructions on the road.

All of this technology works together to create a safe and efficient driving experience for passengers. 

Moving forward, self-driving cars have the potential to dramatically reduce traffic accidents, increase transportation accessibility, and improve overall safety on the road.

Also Read: What are The Benefits of Owning an Electric Vehicle?

Autonomous vs. Automated vs. Self-Driving: What’s the Difference?

The terms “autonomous”, “automated”, and “self-driving” are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between them.

  • Autonomous means that a vehicle can operate without human input. This includes everything from accelerating and braking to changing lanes and navigating through traffic.
  • Automated means that a vehicle can perform some tasks without human input, but it still requires some level of human supervision. For example, an automated car might be able to drive itself on a highway, but it would still need a human driver to take over in case of an emergency.
  • Self-driving is a more general term that can refer to both autonomous and automated vehicles. It is often used to describe vehicles that are still under development, but have the potential to operate without human input in the future.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has developed a classification system for automated driving systems that range from Level 0 (no automation) to Level 5 (full automation).

  • Level 0: The driver performs all driving tasks.
  • Level 1: The driver performs most driving tasks, but the vehicle can control some aspects of driving, such as cruise control or lane-keeping assist.
  • Level 2: The vehicle can control most aspects of driving, but the driver must still be ready to take over at any time.
  • Level 3: The vehicle can control all aspects of driving in certain conditions, but the driver must still be ready to take over if necessary.
  • Level 4: The vehicle can control all aspects of driving in all conditions, but the driver may be able to take over if desired.
  • Level 5: The vehicle can control all aspects of driving in all conditions, and the driver is not required to be present.

As of 2023, there are no commercially available vehicles that meet the SAE’s definition of a Level 5 autonomous vehicle.

However, there are a number of companies that are developing Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous vehicles, and it is expected that these vehicles will be available to consumers in the coming years.

Are Self-Driving Cars Safe?

According to Brake, a UK road safety charity, 1,608 people were killed and 26,701 seriously injured in road accidents caused by human-driven cars in 2021.

Considering this, the question of how safe self-driving cars are arises. It is a complex issue and various factors come into play such as the design of the car, the quality of its sensors and software, as well as the driving environment.

Here are some of the reasons why self-driving cars could be safer than human-driven:

  • A 360-degree view of surroundings, and they can process information much faster than humans.
  • Not susceptible to distractions, such as talking on the phone or texting.
  • Programmed to follow the rules of the road, and they are not likely to make mistakes due to fatigue or intoxication.

These advantages come with certain risks, such as the possibility of being hacked or malfunctioning in unforeseen circumstances. But these are present in regular cars as well and can be avoided through proper design and testing.

All in all, the safety of self-driving cars is an intricate subject that requires an in-depth analysis of all the factors involved. The current evidence shows that autonomous vehicles have the potential to be much safer than those driven by humans.

The Future of Self-Driving Cars

The development of self-driving cars is advancing at a rapid rate and there are already companies that are offering level 2 autonomous vehicles for consumer purchase. As technology improves, the capability of these vehicles is expected to increase and more levels of autonomy will be available.

In the future, autonomous vehicles could be used for a variety of purposes such as public transportation, delivery services, and even ride sharing. 

However, there are still a number of challenges that need to be addressed before autonomous vehicles become a reality, such as the development of reliable sensors and software, legal frameworks, and public acceptance.

Despite these challenges, it is clear that the development of self-driving cars is a major step forward in transportation and it is likely that these vehicles will become commonplace in the near future.

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