Previously in the testing stage, self-driving cars can now be seen dropping off food deliveries and soon enough, driving people to their destination.
So, how are these cars able to drive themselves? Are they safe? The majority of self-driving cars have a GPS as a navigation system that also uses a range of sensors, such as radar, video, and laser range finders. These features are all in place to make the car aware of its surroundings in order to be able to navigate without human navigation.
The biggest tool self-driving cars use is Radio Detection and Ranging (radar). This is how the car maps its environment. In simplest terms, a radar transmits radio waves into a particular direction and the detection of the echoes, or reflected waves, from objects in its environment.
An antenna is put in place to produces the radio waves with an electron current constantly moving up and down. These radio waves are transmitted in pulses and the time taken for the pulses to return helps the car determine how far the object is. Very similarly, the laser range finders measure the time taken from when the laser beam was transmitted to when it returns.
These sensors and GPS system help the car build a 3D map of its environment making it able to make decisions for its next move through a control system. The control system helps the car determine a long-range plan for the cars’ next moves and lets it know where all dangerous or impossible moves are in order to eliminate them. Once the car decides a path, the control system feeds the information into the actuators of the car (controlling steering, throttle and braking) and places them into motion.
However, this is not yet a perfect science, the self-driving system can be flawed. For example, while Uber was testing their self-driving cars, a crash occurred in May 2018 and ultimately killed a 49 year old pedestrian. The car sensor spotted the woman but for some reason, the braking maneuver features were disabled which caused the emergency brake to fail. When the brakes were not applied, the human back up driver was not warned and the car ran into the woman.
Self-driving cars can become a very useful tool in the future, but how safe will they be?
If you or a loved one have been involved in any type of car accident, call and schedule a free consultation with the lawyers at Kaire and Heffernan today.