Autonomous cars are the future of driving; they’re becoming less of a fantasy and more of a reality. An autonomous car is a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without much human input. This software is so technological that it detects its surroundings using radar, lidar, GPS, odometry, and computer vision. Autonomous cars have control systems that analyze sensory data to distinguish different cars on the road and are able to follow traffic without you ever having to drive yourself. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage.
Tesla Motors have recently popularized the driverless car technology with their autopilot software. The fully electric, semi-autonomous car drives highway miles, using sensors to guide the car, while you sit back and let the car drive you. The “Ludicrous” function takes you from 0-60mph in 2.8 seconds, taking you into a smooth and sleek acceleration in comparison to the Lamborghini Huracan, which takes you from 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds. On a recent, and quite frightening experience, I was able to test drive the Tesla Model S P90D where it took me on I-4 through morning traffic. The car was able to use its complex software to steer along the curves and remain in the lines of the highway. The Tesla sensed the other cars on the road as well, displaying them on the computer on the dash. The fully electric car drives over two hundred miles on a full charge, and you can charge from home or at one of the 3,628 supercharger stations dispersed across the country. Tesla announced they are planning on doubling the number of superchargers across the country. Tesla also recently announced the Tesla Model 3, a smaller, more affordable, new model with practically all the features of a Tesla Model S, including the autopilot feature. The new model will be the safest in its class and will revolutionize semi-autonomous, affordable, good-looking driving.
A close comparison to the autonomous Tesla software is the Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive. With similar functions, such as interpreting the roads and other cars and responding in ways such as braking and accelerating, Intelligent Drive offers an advanced system as well. However, the Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive is a fuel injected car, unlike the fully electric Tesla, in which a full super charge can last approximately over 200 miles and only takes under an hour to charge.
Google is working on their prototype of the autonomous vehicle, in which the software is fully autonomous and is predicted to be on roads by 2020. The Google autonomous car does not intend to be a manufacturer themselves, but rather licensing the technology to other companies.
Rumor has it, BMW has partnered with Chinese search engine, Baidu to develop a self-driving, fully functioning prototype set to be released by the end of this year. For months, rumors have been surfacing about Apple building a team of top automotive engineers and the company has reportedly been scoping out locations for top-secret car testing. However, Apple is more likely to release a fully electric car before an autonomous car.
The technology currently being engineered for autonomous driving is expected to be the next big wave in automotive technology, if not all locomotion in general. The development of autonomous cars has grown tremendously; the future of autonomous cars is not on it’s way, it has already arrived.