Autonomous vehicles, and in particular, fully autonomous vehicles have the potential to be among the most revolutionizing technologies since the dawn of the automobiles itself. Some of the largest and most influential companies in the world have made billion-dollar investments in “driverless transport”. It is anticipated that multiple industries will undergo substantial changes, way more remarkable than many might assume. Industries such as manufacturing, transport, logistics, technology, infrastructure, health and insurance, municipal planning and hospitality, will all be impacted, both economically and operationally.
By Automated Vehicles (AVs), we mean vehicles that can operate in a driverless mode in all environments essentially. These vehicles can read normal traffic signs and reciprocate to them, identify bicyclists’ hand signals, sense pedestrians and so forth. Autonomous vehicles offer an excellent opportunity to rethink how cities operate, down to each lane line, crosswalk, and curb, without the streets being substantially modified.
Levels of Driving Automation
Level 0: No Automation
- Manual control
- The human performs all driving tasks (steering, acceleration, braking, etc.)
Level 1: Driver Assistance
- The vehicle features a single automated system (e.g. it monitors speed through cruise control)
Level 2: Partial Automation
- Advanced driver-assistance systems
- The vehicle can perform steering and acceleration.
- The human still monitors all tasks and can take control at any time.
Level 3: Conditional Automation
- Environmental detection capabilities
- The vehicle can perform most driving tasks but human override is still required
Level 4: High Automation
- The vehicle performs all driving tasks under specific circumstances
- Geofencing is required
- Human override is still an option
Level 5: Full Automation
- The vehicle performs all driving tasks under all conditions
- Zero human attention or interaction is required
The radical changes foreseen by automation of automobiles anticipate opening a number of corridors. The fully autonomous vehicles are going to revolutionize the mode of transportation while cutting down the cost. Businesses like ecommerce, transportation, ride sharing, logistics, etc. would find it more cost-effective and efficient.
Since driverless vehicles’ main benefits are in automation, it can assist the physically handicapped or disabled persons, provide convenience for delivering items and save time traveling from one place to another.
On the creative side, driverless vehicles can provide a meeting space and mobile office for professionals who are always on the move. It provides convenience and saves on physical space since the vehicles will be on the road.
Along with the businesses, autonomous vehicles would be beneficial for individuals and the environment as well. AVs would bring down the number of road accidents that happen each year and replace the ICE vehicles with electric.
All major automakers, as well as technology companies, and various university engineering departments, are working on either components or complete systems for Autonomous Vehicles.
Tesla is one of the most talked about names in autonomous driving followed by Google’s Waymo and Uber’s self-driving system. Current Tesla vehicles you see on the road have reached Level 3 automation with promise to be feature-ready for Level 5 full self-driving capability.
Waymo, formerly the Google self-driving car project – is building a fully self-driving technology with plans to lease it to the automotive industry. It is pushing ahead its goals with several companies and already running test trials of their self-driving Chrysler Pacifica robotaxi in California and Phoenix where they successfully transported thousands of passengers.
Uber ATG is also working on its own self-driving technology and currently testing in several US states.
Apple also jumped in the race with its Project Titan and acquisition of self-driving technology company called Drive.ai back in June 2019.
Other leading automotive companies are also either building their own autonomous vehicles or working with partners like Waymo to bring autonomous vehicles to the market. Toyota has additionally reported an arranged association with Amazon and Pizza Hut that includes the advancement of autonomous vehicles for conveyance administration. Mercedes, Audi, and Nissan are currently testing fully autonomous vehicles in California and Nevada.
Apart from the big names, new small companies are also joining the race to achieve full automation. A company called Nuro is promising self-driving delivery vehicles that are currently being tested.
There is also great interest on the regulatory front under which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced a potential rulemaking that all automobiles be capable of communicating with each other.
With the mass-adaptation of autonomous vehicles, the disruption in the automobile industry is imminent. It is definitely going to revolutionize the transportation and other industries around that. Fundamentally, the revolution of the transportation industry will be more intelligible when these vehicles are provided for regular and public use. The technological advancements here may lead to disruption of employment and hype among customers, but evolution takes no time in becoming a norm. Now the question is, will autonomous vehicles alter the physical infrastructure of cities and roads or blend within the current scenario? We will find that out soon.