TREND 14Autonomous Vehicles

The One-Sentence Definition

An autonomous vehicle – be it a car, truck, ship, or other vehicle – is one that can sense what’s going on around it and operate without human involvement.

What Are Autonomous Vehicles?

To explain how the technology works, I’ll mostly focus on autonomous cars (also often described as self-driving cars). However, as you’ll see later in the chapter, vehicles of all shapes and sizes are becoming increasingly autonomous.

Every major car manufacturer is investing heavily in self-driving technology of one sort or another. And while we’re still a way off the fully autonomous cars seen in sci-fi films (where humans simply sit in the back and take it easy), we’re getting surprisingly close to that becoming reality.

But what do we mean by “autonomous”? Autonomy in vehicles is classified according to the following levels:1

  • Level 1: Basic driver support features that can provide steering or brake/acceleration support, such as lane centering or adaptive cruise control. So, essentially, only one driver process at a time is automated.
  • Level 2: Still focused on driver support as opposed to automation, cars at this level can provide steering and brake/acceleration support at the same time. A self-parking feature would fall under level 2 autonomy.
  • Level 3: Now we move into automated drive features that can drive the vehicle under limited conditions. A traffic jam chauffeur feature is a good example of level 3 autonomy. At this level, ...

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