Call them what you like – auto-piloted rides, autonomous vehicles, self-driving cars. The bottom line is that they’re changing how we commute, and fast. As innovative tech begins to rival the importance of horsepower and torque, people are now moving towards vehicles that are connected to their smartphones, break before collisions, and park themselves.

Driven by innovative technologies and the desire to change the way we commute, autonomous cars are the future. Some of the companies that are constantly working on self-driving technology include General Motors (GM), Tesla, Ford, Uber, and Google.

Currently, autonomous vehicles use four different technologies including passive visual, ultrasonic, radar, and LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging).

  • Passive visual: This technology uses sophisticated image-recognition algorithms and cameras to control the car. These systems can effectively detect resolution, contrast, and color better than any other sensors out there. They work best in good lighting conditions.
  • Ultrasonic: This system emits ultrasonic waves to determine distance and direction. The sensors are perfect for close-range detection in all weather conditions.
  • Radar: This technology uses radiowaves to determine the angles and velocity of objects. It has a pretty good range but has low resolution. It can also be used in the rain, snow, and fog.
  • LIDAR: These sensors use lasers to measure distances and identify objects. They can detect the speed of an object that is 650 feet away. They work well both day and night, however, they are not very effective in foggy, rainy, and dusty conditions because they interfere with the light wavelengths.

These self-driving technologies are quickly evolving to be more accurate and reliable, and companies are striving to achieve new breakthroughs. For example, Tesla is using the combination of passive visual, ultrasonic, and radar systems to drive its cars while Google is developing a more developed LIDAR system for its cars.

Self-Driving Cars on the Market

1. Volvo XC90 Hybrid

Uber currently has dozens of Volvo XZC90 SUVs picking up passengers in different parts of the country. However, all trips are accompanied by an Uber engineer as a safety precaution in case there’s need for human intervention.

These cars are equipped with an Intellisafe Autopilot mode for extra safety and automatically brakes at intersections when it senses objects in front of it.

2. Tesla Model S

Tesla self driving car is at a completely different stage in the autonomous vehicle world. All cars are not only electric but also equipped with the latest self-driving hardware.

The Model S can automatically adjust speed, change lanes, park parallel, and steer down the highway seamlessly. It uses a combination of sensors, radars, and cameras to maintain its autopilot mode.

3. Google’s Waymo

Waymo has been working on self-driving cars from 2009. It has tested over 4 million miles on various vehicles and these efforts have not gone down the drain. Today, some of these Google cars are fully functional on public roads.  They can park automatically, regulate the speed on the road, and brake on incoming traffic.

4. Infiniti Q50S

The Infiniti Q50S uses a radar on the fender and a windshield camera for its autopilot mode. It has an adaptive cruise control, active lane control, lane departure prevention, and emergency braking. It is readily available on the market.

5. BMW 7 Series

BMW’s 750i xDrive system is more of a driving-aid system than a fully autonomous car. The sedan has a pedestrian alert, automatic brake system, and lane departure prevention for smooth city cruising. It also comes with an Active Cruise Control that gives you a hands-free moment during traffic jams.

6. Mercedes-Benz S-Class

To get the semi-autonomous technology for this vehicle, you will need to go for the “Driver Assistance” option package. This package will include an adaptive cruise control, steering assist, forward brake assist, active lane-keep assist, as well as a blind-spot assist. This sedan uses an infrared camera and Autoliv thermal technology to detect pedestrians and objects after dark.

Let’s Go Driverless!

There is no doubt about it, self-driving cars are going to be next big thing – all car news is about it. However, there are so many obstacles that need to be tackled before autonomous cars become a reality, some of these challenges are technological, others are regulatory and political.

And while fully autopiloted rides are undoubtedly a few years away, automakers are continuously rolling out semi-autonomous cars. This means we are getting closer to the idea of letting our cars do all the work.

So whether you are a car and tech junkie or you are just tired of driving yourself to work every single day, it’s time to embrace the future of driving with self-driving cars.

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