Before getting to know the pros and cons of self-driving cars, let’s understand the autopilot technology that makes a car into a self-driving car.
Self-driving cars are powered by autopilot technology that involves sensors, radars, cameras, onboard computer with software to control the sensors, radars, and cameras along with a navigation system to navigate to the required destination. These cars need no intervention from human drivers to operate and drive the vehicle safely.
Though the autopilot technology is successful, there are no vehicles that are operating on complete autopilot mode. The autopilot cars are partially autonomous as they are still in their nascent state. At present, no cars are fully autonomous. There are different levels of autonomous autopilot cars. They are graded as follows:
Level 0: Humans control all major systems in the car.
Level 1: Some systems, such as acceleration or automatic brakes, are controlled by the car. Only one function is automatically controlled at a time.
Level 2: In this category, the car can control two functions concurrently, like acceleration and steering. But it requires human intervention to control other functions for a safe drive.
Level 3: These cars handle all critical functions, but human intervention is necessary when the vehicle raises an alert.
Level 4: The car is fully automatic in most scenarios, but it still needs human intervention.
Level 5: The car is fully automatic in all situations.
Currently, only up to level 3 autopilot cars are available in the market. Level 4 cars will be available in the market in the coming years. It may take several years for level 5 cars to be available in the market due to the legality involved in operating them.
Having understood the autopilot technology and the automation levels, let’s take a look into autopilot cars’ functioning.
Autopilot technology creates and maintains an internal map of their surroundings using all the sensors attached externally to the car, the radar, laser beams, high-powered cameras, and sonar. Inputs from these components are processed by the software to plot a path. This information from the software is sent to the car’s actuators that control acceleration, braking, and steering.
The software helps to avoid obstacles, identify vehicles, follow traffic rules, and navigate obstacles.
Self-driving cars are being tested if they can communicate with other vehicles, infrastructure, and next-generation traffic lights.
Autopilots are of two types based on the levels mentioned in the introduction. From level 0 to level 4, the autopilots have limited automation that needs human intervention, while level 5 is fully self-driven autopilot.
To conclude, though there are a few advantages to autopilot cars, like an increase in safety features that reduce accidents and eases driving, it has a significant threat of being hacked and taken under hackers’ control apart from other disadvantages that can be negated with technology. As always, when technology grows, it creates unemployment in one sector and creates employment in another sector. In this case, if it affects the drivers and public transportation, it will create employment opportunities for others involved directly and indirectly in the manufacturing of autopilot cars. Another major constraint to be overcome is the legal clearance for 100% autopilot cars to ply on the roads as we cannot take the risk in automation, unlike any other industries. Yes, even some warplanes and drones are fully automated. They help during natural disasters, spying, and monitoring to maintain security and vigilance. But in the case of autopilot cars, we cannot take the risk of making it 100% automatic as the scenarios on roads are quite different from those in the sky.