Self-driving cars being vague sign-bearers of an indeterminate future would soon become days of the past. Self-driving cars are all set to disrupt the automobile industry and usher its colossal restructuring. In the coming years, you will just need to turn around to see them moving in your neighboring street.
Self-driving cars have already hit the roads of California, Texas, Arizona, Washington, Pennsylvania, Michigan and other US states and countries. Though, as of now, their mobility is restricted to specific test areas and driving conditions.
But a question arises inescapably in our minds – how do autonomous cars function?
Of course, there are a slew of technologies that enable the vehicle to drive autonomously, but, how do the cars change lane and keep a safe distance from other vehicles hurtling past them, or how do they spot roadblocks and other such obstructions ahead?
Just like human-driven cars, autonomous vehicles too would have to face traffic congestion, potholes, trees and other obstacles on roads. What is the technology that works as an eye of these cars?
Let’s look at how Autonomous vehicle handle such situations smoothly.
LiDAR – eyes of autonomous vehicles
You might have noticed a rotating device installed atop an autonomous vehicle. However, on some, it’s mounted on the bonnet. This device is LiDAR that acts as an eye of the self-driving vehicles. It provides them a 360-degree view of the surrounding helping them to drive themselves safely.
Continuously rotating LiDAR system sends thousands of laser pulses every second. These pulses collide with the surrounding objects and reflect back. The resulting light reflections are then used to create a 3D point cloud. An onboard computer records each laser’s reflection point and translates this rapidly updating point cloud into an animated 3D representation.
3D representation is created by measuring the speed of light and the distance covered by it which helps to determine the vehicle’s position with other surrounding objects.
The 3D representation monitors the distance between the other passing by vehicle and any other vehicle in front of it. It helps to command the brakes to slow or stop the vehicle. When the road ahead is clear, it also allows the vehicle to speed up.
LiDAR is also being incorporated into a new development called Pre-Scan. In Pre-Scan, laser scans the road surface several hundred times a second. This information is then fed to the cars on-board computer and processed in a fraction of a second, adjusting the individual suspension at each wheel.
With the help of LiDAR, autonomous vehicles travel smoothly and avoid collisions by detecting the obstructions ahead. This improves the safety of the commuters and makes autonomous cars less prone to accidents because the risk of human negligence and rash driving is absent.