Self-driving cars are now a reality. Take a look around. Cars are already driving themselves on the roads of California, Texas, Arizona, Washington, Pennsylvania, Michigan and many more cities. Though, currently, they are restricted to specific test areas and driving conditions. But how exactly do they work? Just like humans they also face issues of traffic congestion, rash driving, potholes, trees and other obstacles on the road. But again…How do they change lane, keep a safe distance from other vehicles passing by and how do they identify roadblocks.
Let’s take a closer look at how they handle such situations smoothly? You might have noticed a rotating device installed on top of this autonomous vehicle. Sometimes these devices are mounted on the bonnet. This device is called LiDAR. It acts as the eye of self-driving vehicles providing a 360-degree view of its surroundings in order to enable safe driving. Continuously rotating LiDAR system sends thousands of laser pulses every second. These pulses collide with the various objects around the vehicle and reflect back the signals. These 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.
The 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 respect to the objects surrounding it.
The 3D representation also monitors the distance between the vehicles that pass by and any other vehicle in front. It also helps to command the brakes in order to slow down or stop the vehicle. When the road ahead is clear, it can also allow the vehicle to speed up.
LiDAR is also being incorporated into another development called Pre-Scan. In Pre-Scan, laser scans the road surface several hundred times a second. This information is then fed to the car’s onboard computer and processed in a fraction of a second which adjusts the individual suspension for each wheel of the vehicle.
With this, autonomous cars achieve the smoothest and safest ride possible. The technology helps the wheel and tyres avoid imperfections on the road’s surface and warn the vehicle about obstacles and potholes so that they can provide bump-free ride to their passengers.