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How Close Are We To Having Fully Autonomous Autos?

autonomous vehicles self-driving cars

A vehicle that can sense its surroundings and function without human intervention is an autonomous vehicle.  There is no need for a human passenger to operate the car at any moment or even to be inside the vehicle at all. In fact, an autonomous vehicle can go anywhere a traditional vehicle can go and can perform any task that a skilled human driver can. But how close are we as a society to having truly autonomous autos in our day-to-day lives?

The 6 Levels Of Autonomation

There are now 6 levels of driving automation, ranging from Level 0 to Level 5, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The U.S. Department of Transportation has adopted these levels to describe where the automation of a vehicle is currently at.


The level of the driverless car’s operational independence rises as the levels rise. These are those levels explained in more detail:


  • Level 0 – The human driver does all of the driving; the car has no control over how it operates.
  • Level 1 – The advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) of the car can aid the driver with steering or with accelerating and braking.
  • Level 2 – In some circumstances, the ADAS can manage steering, accelerating, and braking; however, the human driver is still expected to maintain undivided attention to the driving environment during the route, in addition to managing the other necessary tasks.
  • Level 3 – In some circumstances, the ADS (advanced driving system) is capable of handling every aspect of the driving duty; but, the human driver must be able to regain control when the ADS requests it. The human driver performs the essential actions in the remaining conditions.
  • Level 4 – In circumstances where driver attention is not necessary, the vehicle’s ADS is capable of handling all driving duties independently.
  • Level 5 – This involves complete automation, whereby the vehicle’s ADS is capable of carrying out all functions in all circumstances without the need for a human driver to assist. By utilizing 5G technology, which will allow vehicles to communicate not just with one another but also with traffic signals, signage, and even the roads themselves, complete automation will be made possible.

How Do Autonomous Autos Work?

In order to run the automation software, autonomous autos need sensors, actuators, sophisticated algorithms, machine learning systems, and potent CPUs.


Based on a multitude of sensors placed throughout the vehicle, these cars build and maintain a map of their surroundings:


  • Radar sensors keep track of the whereabouts of adjacent vehicles.
  • Traffic lights, road signs, other vehicles, and pedestrians are all detected by video cameras.
  • Light detection and ranging sensors (lidar) use the reflection of light pulses from the environment around the car to calculate distances, find road boundaries, and recognize lane markers.
  • When parking, ultrasonic sensors on the wheels pick up on curbs and other cars.


Subsequently, the sophisticated software analyzes all of this sensory data, draws a path, and issues commands to the actuators in the automobile that manage acceleration, braking, and steering. The software aids in adhering to traffic regulations and avoiding obstructions through the use of hard-coded rules, obstacle avoidance algorithms, predictive modeling, and object identification.

What Are The Challenges That Full Autonomy Faces?

Several regions of the world are testing fully autonomous (Level 5) vehicles, although none are presently accessible to the general public. The difficulties range from legal and technological to environmental and philosophical. These are just some of the challenges the industry is facing:

  • Weather

What happens when a self-driving car travels through a lot of rain? If the lane markings are covered in water, grease, ice, or debris, how will the cameras and sensors be able to follow them? All of these factors must be taken into consideration when discussing full automation.

  • Accident Liability

Who is responsible for accidents brought on by autonomous vehicles? The manufacturer nor the human passenger? A human passenger wouldn’t even have the option to take control of the vehicle in an emergency, according to the most recent designs, because a completely autonomous Level 5 automobile won’t have a dashboard or a steering wheel.

  • Lidar And Radar

Lidar is expensive and is still attempting to determine the ideal ratio of range to resolution.  Will the frequency range be large enough to facilitate the mass production of autonomous autos if multiple radio frequencies are available? Would lidar signals from different autonomous vehicles on the same route clash with one another? Again, these are variables that need to be considered.

  • State Vs. Federal Regulation

Recently, state-by-state regulations have replaced federal guidelines as the primary form of regulation in the US for autonomous vehicles. To stop the rise of vehicles traveling without passengers, some jurisdictions have even suggested a per-mile fee for autonomous vehicles.


Additionally, lawmakers have proposed measures that would require all autonomous vehicles to be zero-emission vehicles and to be equipped with panic buttons. But will there be variations in the legislation from one state to another? Can you drive an autonomous vehicle over state lines? These are questions that need to be discussed in order to travel legally.

When Will Fully Autonomous Autos Be A Reality?

The future of automated vehicles is still promising, even though the car industry still has a number of challenges to overcome before Level 5 ADAS vehicles are publicly accessible.


Level 5 ADAS vehicles are probably only going to appeal to a limited portion of the general public at first, particularly tech and auto enthusiasts. Only 12% of individuals, including more than half of drivers, say they would feel safe in fully autonomous vehicles because of accident responsibility and insufficient regulatory concerns, according to the American Automobile Association.


Drivers will only purchase these vehicles if they are confident they are secure and properly insured. However, automakers won’t scale up production unless there is a demand from customers, and regulatory agencies and insurance firms won’t be able to decide how to handle autonomous autos until they have a larger presence in the auto market.


This issue might be resolved by commercial clients, who could influence how the general public views automation and increase consumer interest. There will probably be significant advancements in the development of ADAS features for business and public transportation, including fleets of city buses, airport shuttles, long-haul commercial trucks, and unmanned last-mile deliveries. All of them will contribute to a greater sense of assurance regarding the viability of ADAS vehicles as a genuine choice for dependable, safe consumer transportation.


When fully autonomous vehicles will enter the road is difficult to predict. These cutting-edge vehicles are being developed by automakers and technology firms, but other industry participants will also contribute to the next chapter in the history of the automobile.


Nik Miles from Our Auto Expert, a 20-year professional broadcaster and analyst in the automotive field, confirms that the sector is currently transitioning from Level 2 to Level 3, but is not yet at Level 5. There is still a long way to go until Level 5 autonomy is produced in large quantities and embraced by consumers, despite the fact that the majority of the major automakers already provide semi-autonomous hands-free technologies in their cars.


The Bottom Line

Several recent studies indicate that tech firms might have oversold the ability to fully automate cars and the timeline for any large-scale adoption. Automated cars being commonly used by a majority of people on roadways could easily be 20 to 40 years away, if it is ever fully achieved.


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