Monday, 12 December 2016 06:52

Google driverless cars will be on the market by 2020


Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh

Technological breakthrough is always fun as everyone gets his or her deserts in due course, like Eastern Indian Railways are coming to Manipur by 2020 after 149 years, while driverless cars will be on the global market by 2020. Self-driving computerised cars with artificial Intelligence, especially with “deep learning” (ability of computers to use logarithms to solve problems) are taking humans out of equation. Artificial Intelligence provides the autonomous cars with real time decisions and human perceptions to control actions, such as acceleration, steering, brakes, stopping at traffic lights and changing lanes.

Western scientific innovations will continue, altering the world we live in. Driverless cars will take over any jobs that require drivers, such as taxi driving, public transportation, long-haul trucking. In the US, ‘Peloton Technology’ (automated vehicle linking for safety and fuel efficiency) is working with freight companies to ensure fleets of lorries can travel as if connected by a digital tow bar.

UK has invested millions of pounds in its own research, including trials of driverless pods (small vehicles) to see how the technology interacts with the environment and other road users. In October 2016, Britain had its first driverless car tested at Milton Keynes. More trials will be conducted later at various locations in the UK. The tests will last for about 20 months while analysing the legal and insurance applications. Volvo of Sweden is planning to test a fleet of 100 semi-autonomous vehicles in Gothenburg in 14 month’s time. In America normal sized cars have been tested by Google in California.

This new revolution has followed in the heels of electric cars in the UK. By October 2016, more than 63,00 electric cars have been registered. These cars are small and batteries have to be charged at charging stations along the route. It’s suggested that the driverless car revolution will give the world economy a massive boost. As an indication, about 30% of congestion levels in the cities are caused by people looking for parking spaces. With full automaton parking in coordination with infrared sensors in parking bays, the location of empty spaces will be determined instantly, and cars being parked undamaged in tight locations.

As the technology gets cheaper, driverless cars will increasingly become a reality. The challenging problem at the moment is not about technology but about liability: who will be responsible if the car crashes or kills a pedestrian? The manufacturer, the computer software maker or the owner? And what happens if the car or car system is hiked? There ‘s also the problem of cyber warfare against autonomous vehicles that are linked to each other via the internet.
The insurance firms understand 90% of car accidents are caused by human error rather than mechanical faults, and insurers in the UK pay out £27 millions everyday in motor claims. It has already shown from data collected by Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre that adopting of autonomous emergency braking in conventional vehicles cuts collisions by 15% and injuries by 18%. The first fatal crash involving a driverless car but with a driver in it, using the Autopilot system, occurred in May 2016 when a driver was killed at the wheels of his Tesla car. All test drives has a driver in it, just in case the car is not behaving.

Technological advances even in conventional cars have also unbelievably progressed with ingenuity that was unthinkable when I bought my Lexus 10 years ago. Two days ago I was travelling in my friends BMW 6 car series (same as Mercedes E 250). The car engine stops itself at traffic lights or in traffic jams as your brake it and starts again when you release (to save energy). It has energy saving electromechanical power steering ie power steering only operates when the wheel is being turned. It parks itself at tight parallel parking bays after helping to find a parking space in the first place. It has night vision to help spot people, and large animals on the road in low light. It’s equipped with new brake energy regeneration system ie a mechanism which slows the vehicle converting its kinetic energy into a form which can be either used immediately or stored until needed. The BMW-7 series (2016) can park itself in a parking bay or into a garage and out, by pressing a button on the key fob, while the driver stands outside.
There are other novelties such as Vogswagon’s (Golf or Passat – cheaper cars) that has “City Emergency Braking system” that can reduce accident severity and even avoid a crash. When the speed is under 18mph, it uses its laser sensor to detect the risk of an impending collision and automatically primes the brake to make them more sensitive. If the driver does not brake and a collision is imminent the system applies brake automatically.

Google is a multinational company based at Stanford University, with its headquarters situated at Mountain View, California. It’s a research project, started in 1996 to organise the world’s information service that will be available universally. Google X is a part of its project to develop technology for mainly electric cars. Its team developed robotic vehicle in 2005.

Google announced plans to create a driverless car that had neither a steering wheel nor pedals in 2024 and unveiled a fully functioning prototype in December of that year that they planned to test on San Francisco Bay roads, beginning in 2015. Google plans to make these cars available to the public in 2020. Legislation to allow testing driverless cars with Google’s experimental driverless technology has been passed in four states and Washington DC.

Google had test driven a fleet of cars consisting solely of 23 Lexus SUVs by June 2015. The team had then driven 1,600,000 km (1,000,000 mi). During that period there had been 14 collisions, of which other drivers (of conventional cars) were at fault. However in 2016, there had been a crash due to the error of the software.

The project team at Google has also fitted a few cars with the self driving equipment, such as Toyota Prius, Audi TT, and Lexus RX450h. The equipment per car costs about $150.000. The car drives at the speed limit it has stored on its maps (it can drive only on routes that are available on its map), and maintains its distance from other vehicles using its distance sensors. So far, according to law, the system provides an overdrive that allows a human driver to take control of the car by stepping on the brake or turning the wheel just as in normal cars.

The self-driving car has eight sensors. The most important technology is the rotating roof-top mounted Lidar – a camera that uses an array of 32 or 64 lasers to measure the distance to objects to build a 3D map at a range of 200m, letting the car see hazards, such as the edges of roads and identify lane markings by bouncing pulses of light off the car’s surroundings. Video cameras detect traffic lights, read road signs and keep track of other vehicles nearby. They also look out for pedestrians and other obstacles.

The car can successfully identify a bike and understand that if the cyclist extends an arm they intend to make a manoeuvre. The car slows down and gives the bike enough space to operate safely. Bumper-mounted radar keeps track of vehicles in front and behind the car. Radar sensors (not new) dotted around the car monitor the position of vehicles nearby. The car has rear-mounted aerial that receives geolocation information from GPS satellites. An ultrasonic sensor on the outer rear wheel (depending on left or right hand drive) that monitors the car’s movements to detect position of the car relative to 3-D map.

Other technological companies are also competing with Google. Tesla (TSLA), an American motor company based in California that specialises in electric cars, plans to produce autonomous cars by 2017. Uber Technologies (San Francisco), an American world online and on demand transportation network company in more than 50 countries, has beaten Google by launching in September 2016, autonomous (though each has a driver behind the wheel to intervene in sticky spots) web-based ride car service in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Uber has been beaten up in driverless car service by the Singapore startup nuTonomy by launching the first driverless cars in August 2016. It’s easy for Singapore as it is a small city. Baidu Inc (BIDO), Beijing – the Chinese search engine website service company has recently announced a partnership with BMW, with a huge potential market as Chinese has 20% of world’s population.

The development that gives the car ability to change lanes is the most complex part. But already, Telsa electric car EV has Autopilot with the capacity to change lane at motorway speeds using the autonomous cruise control. All you have to do is turn on the indicator. It will automatically steer itself to keep its position in the middle of the lane. It will also slow you down if the car in front changes speed.

Automated car will give drivers more time for leisure or work. It’s estimated that within 10 years there will be a lot of driverless cars on the road and there will be less air pollution and less carbon footprints.

Author:  Irengbam Mohendra Singh

Source:  http://www.thesangaiexpress.com/google-driverless-cars-will-be-on-the-market-by-2020


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