Google’s driverless cars are currently being tested in parts of California and are being developed vigorously by the company. In fact, the promise of driverless cars is so great that many other auto manufacturers are currently developing their own technology. While we are still years away from them being available to the general public, Google is spearheading the movement and refining and perfecting these cars on a daily basis.
The technology behind these cars is quite complex, but not entirely unheard of. Much of the technology that is being used is already used for other software and applications, meaning that it isn’t technology in which there is a question mark about safety. Here is some of the technology:
LIDAR stands for laser illuminating detecting and ranging, and it is technology that has been used in order to build a 3D map. This allows the car to be able to spot any potential dangers on the road through sending a laser beam that is constantly bouncing off hard surfaces. This also helps it to determine the distance between objects, as well as the actual object itself.
Google’s driverless car utilizes a Velodyne 64-beam laser, which allows it to have a 360-degree mapping process through being placed on the top hood of the car.
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The Radar technology that is used has been implemented in order to make up for one of the drawbacks of the LIDAR technology, which is in being able to determine the moving speed of surrounding objects, such as vehicles. The radar units, in which two are placed in the front and two are placed in the back on the bumpers, can help the car to avoid hitting another object through automatically transmitting signals to the car’s computer to either brake or accelerate.
The Radar technology works also with the gyroscopes, inertial measurement units, and wheel encoder, all of which are designed to send as accurate of information as possible to the main computer in the car.
Cameras are placed on the exterior of the car and are designed so that there’s an overlapping view of the environment that surrounds the car. The reason for the overlapping images is to mimic how the human eye sees things and to help better measure peripheral movement, depth of field, and dimensionality.
All of the cameras are accurate up to 30 meters in distance.
This may seem redundant to include, especially with the LIDAR and Radar technology. But the Sonar technology is designed as a sort of back-up, even though it has a more narrower field of view and only has a range of 6 meters on average.
The purpose of it being there is to reinforce the accuracy of the readings from the other technology and to work with them in order to complete such things as swerving to avoid impact, applying the brakes when needed, and to change the tension of seat belts.
Advanced Positioning Systems
There is also the need for having advanced positioning systems in place that can utilize GPS, inertial measurement units, a wheel encoder, and a map system designed by Google. Working in conjunction with the cameras and the speed in which the car is moving, the Google driverless car will be able to accurately plot its movements to its final destination.
Its accuracy is so detailed that it can determine the location of the car in terms of navigation to a couple of centimeters and make adjustments for unexpected events, such as a closed road.
Of course, all of the aforementioned technology would not mean much if there wasn’t any advanced software in place that put everything together.
One of the best features of the software is how it adapts to the behavioral aspects of its surroundings. For example, while the software is always designed so that you stop at a traffic light when it has turned red, it also has the ability to process all of the driving data from previous times and make changes accordingly. If there’s a car moving slow on the right lane, the software will learn to recognize that there’s a higher likelihood that the car behind it will move to the left in order to pass it.
Perhaps in 20 years, everyone will be using driverless cars. It should be released on the market within 5 years or less, and knowing that Google is taking every possible step to ensure the safety of it is a good thing. Regulations are already being passed in some states allowing for it.
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