THE FUTURE OF AUTONOMOUS CARS (SELF DRIVING CARS)
By Sulie Dende
19th January, 2018
19th January, 2018
NURO'S self driving delivery mini truck
Over the years, self driving cars (Autonomous Cars) have gone from something we see in the movies to auto wonders prowling the streets of California, Michigan, Paris, London, Singapore and even Beijing. An autonomous car, sometimes known as a driverless car/self driving car is a vehicle that is capable goal directed movements without human control, usually by sensing its environment. These cars use a variety of sensory technologies, such as GPS, motion sensors, ultrasonic sensors, radars, and so on, to navigate their surroundings.
There’s no doubt that this technology would influence different aspect of our daily living such as economy, infrastructure, traffic and even employment.
So how come an autonomous drive is becoming more inevitable in the 21st century? Autonomous motor vehicle technology actually dates back as far as the 1980s where several autonomous project were being experimented, even though many countries didn’t allow trials until 2015.
But somewhere in the middle, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency in the United States brought into limelight the evolution of autonomous cars via its DARPA grand challenge for autonomous cars.
DARPA Grand Challenge in 2005
The Grand Challenge was the first long distance competition for driverless cars in the world(2004).
Since then auto companies like Mercedes, Volvo, Audi, waymo, Uber, Apple, R1 nuro, toyota e-pallate group have ran successful trials.
The envisioned Toyota e-Palette: A vehicle that can shuttle people, delivery food and even serve as a medical center
But what does all these mean for Africa? Is there any hope?
If we are being honest one might find it difficult to comprehend any future of autonomous driving in Africa. For an autonomous vehicle system to function well, there must be, among several factors, well marked roads, well implemented and documented town planning, reliable street lights, up-to-date roads signs, and a controlled environment with various sensors available for a machine learning algorithm to read (Machine learning algorithm is a form of AI algorithm manufactures use to read data from sensors, radars, cameras and detailed maps to determine autonomous cars’ responsiveness to varied traffic conditions). The terrible road networks, poor road states, chaotic traffic behaviors, dwindling economy and lack of adequate technology makes the idea of autonomous driving in Africa difficult to comprehend. Nonetheless, Africa holds great promise. Africa being a global market, the sustainability of companies like Uber and Lyft might require autonomous adaptations to suit third world countries with substandard infrastructure. But I don't see any probable future for autonomous driving in Africa's current condition unless something is done about it.
While we are all excited to see our cars in the nearest future come with LiDAR and Raders, a lot of people still have questions about the future of this technology. Is it sustainable? Is it safe ? Do we need to alter our roads? Is mass production feasible? How would it change my life?
It might be pretty hard to accept Will Smith’s I Robot autonomous car ideology or that your pizza will show up in a human-free delivery van with no tipping required but we are closer there than you can think.
Google's Prius created by Sebastian Thrun, one of the best minds from the DARPA Grand challenge.
A classification system based on six different levels was published in 2014 by an automotive standardization body known as SAE international. This classification is based on the level of driver intervention and has nothing to do with features of the car.
Level 0: Automated system issues warnings and may momentarily intervene but has no sustained vehicle control.
Level 1 (Drive Assistance): Driver and automated system shares control over the vehicle. The automated system may either assist the steering controls or the level of acceleration/deceleration based on the environment. An example would be Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and the Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA).
Level 2 (Partial Automation): The automated system takes full control of the vehicle (accelerating, braking, and steering). The driver must monitor the driving and be prepared to immediately intervene at any time.
Level 3 (Conditional Automation): The car system can handle all aspect of dynamic driving task with the expectation that the human driver would be capable to intervene when deemed necessary. The driver can safely turn their attention away from the driving tasks, e.g. the driver can text or watch a movie. The vehicle will handle situations that call for an immediate response, like emergency braking. In 2017 the Audi A8 Luxury Sedan was the first commercial car to claim to be able to do level 3 self driving.
Level 4 (High Automation): As level 3, but no driver attention is ever required for safety.
Level 5 (Full Time Automation): No human intervention is required.