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Driver-less Cars

Driverless Electric Cars

People are now aware about the latest of Google’s wonders, the driverless car technology being introduced by the name Google Self driving car. The car basically involves development of autonomous car technology with the main focus on electric cars. The software used by Google to power these cars is known as Google Chauffeur. The main label of  a self driving car relies on the lettering feature on each side of the car. This autonomous cars technology is basically being applied by Sebastian Thrun in this particular project. The team responsible for this project consists of about fifteen engineers from Google inclusive of Chris Urmson, Anthony Levandowski and Mike Montemerlo who have had previous experience on DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges.

Driverless Electric Cars
Driverless Electric Cars

When it comes to allowing driverless cars and their safety, a legislation has been passed in the United States for a total of four states along with Washington D.C. Nevada passed the law permitting functioning of these autonomous cars in the year 2011 after Google had begun the process of lobbying in this particular state for its robotic car laws. The first license for these cars was issued by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles in the year 2012. This was issued to a modified version of Toyota Prius consisting of this experimental technology. The second state to allow testing of such cars was Florida. The state of California was the third one after its Governor signed the bill in to law.

The state of Michigan was the fourth in line when it came to testing of these driverless cars on general public roads in the year 2013. Coeur d’Alene accepted an ordinance of robotics allowing permission to for these self-driving cars on the public roads. In early 2014, a rather new concept was shed light upon by Google for these cars. This unique concept talked about cars without pedals and wheels. A completely functioning prototype was also introduced in December which was to be tested on the roads of San Francisco Bay Area in early 2015. According to plans of Google, these roads will be made accessible to the public by the year 2020.

Technology

Quite a few different sorts of cars have been equipped with the necessary self-driving technology for this particular project by the brilliant team. The list of cars includes:

  • Toyota Prius
  • Audi TT
  • Lexus RX450h

Moreover Google has also managed development of its own custom vehicle as well. This particular vehicle was assembled by Roush Enterprises. The equipment added in the vehicle was from Bosch, LG, Continental and ZF Lenksysteme. The cars are definitely an expensive innovation as the equipment is worth a hundred and fifty thousand dollars which includes a seventy thousand dollar LIDAR system as well. Velodyne 64-beam laser is a kind of range finder which is to be mounted on the top. The vehicle makes amazing use of this laser as this allows it the generation of a detailed 3D map of the surrounding environment. The generated maps are taken and combined using high resolution maps of the globe in order to produce various kinds of data models allowing the vehicle to drive on its own.

Till the month of June in 2014, this particular system was working using a significantly high definition inch-precision map of the surrounding area which these cars are expected to utilize. This included the area dimensions as well such as the height of traffic light along with on-board systems. The remote computer farms also perform certain computation.

Road testing

The very first navigation test course was performed by Google’s modification of the Toyota Prius. By the year 2012, the group of vehicles which had been tested a total of six Toyota Prius along with Audi TT and about three Lexus RX450h. The driver seats were occupied by drivers with absolutely unblemished records of driving. The passenger seats were filled by a Google engineer. As of May 215 this fleet of cars included twenty three Lexus SUVs.

These highly intelligent vehicles by Google have managed to run on San Francisco’s Lombard Street. These are known for their impressively steep hairpin turns along with smooth operation through proper traffic of the city. The Golden Gate Bridge along with the Lake Tahoe have had the chance of witness the smooth operation of these vehicles. The system uses the previously stored speed limit in accordance with the maps to ensure safe driving along with maintenance of a safe distance from other vehicles.

The distance is maintained by the car using a sensor system. This system can effectively provide an override allowing the driver to gain control over the car by simply stepping on the brake or through tuning of the wheel. This system is quite similar to the cruise control systems which have already been equipped in a number of cars of this generation. Steve Mahan’s video was posted on YouTube by Google in the year 2012. The video basically showed this Morgan Hill resident to be enjoying his ride in Google’s self driving car (Toyota Prius).

Manhattan announces the state of his vision in the start of the video. He had lost about ninety five percent of his vision. The car took him from his home to a drive through restaurant followed by a drive to the dry cleaning shop and then back home. The route appeared to have been quite carefully programmed. By August, 2012 this brilliant team had managed completion of more than three hundred thousand autonomous diving miles which is about five hundred thousand kilometers. The best part was the accident free nature of the distance covered with quite a number of cars on the road at the time of travel.

The team announced in the year 2012, its plans to initiate testing of these cars with single drivers instead of in pairs. Apart from the aforementioned states, the state of Texas has also proposed the establishment of a criteria in order to allow driving of autonomous motor vehicles on the public roads. The prototype unveiled in late May of 2014 by Google was without a steering wheel, brake pedal and gas pedal. The car was completely hundred percent autonomous. Recently in June, 2015 the Google team declared that their vehicles had managed to drive more than one million miles. The team made the comparison of this drive with seventy five years of conventional adult driving in the United States.

The team reported the cars to have had encountered about two hundred thousand stops signs along with a total of six hundred thousand traffic lights in this process. These cars have covered such a long distance safely in the presence of a total of one hundred and eighty million other vehicles. Google has announced that the vehicle prototypes were tested on the public roads in Mountain View of California. The maximum speed allowed during the testing phase of the prototypes was 25 mph. Safety drivers were aboard all the time in each test.

Traffic accidents

By June 2015, it was reported that about twenty three self driving cars from Google were involved in about twelve traffic accidents of minor nature on public roads. However Google maintains that each of the accident case involved a fault of manual drive by the driver or the some other vehicle. The accidents caused were not in any way the fault of the system. An incident occurred in the year 2010 which included a driverless car to have been rear ended whilst it was being stopped by a traffic signal. According to Google, this particular incident was due to a human operating the car. Similarly in August 2011, another driverless car was involved in a car crash close to the Google headquarters in California. Once again, Google claimed that a human driver was in control of the car at that time.

Limitations

The prototypes are yet to be tested in extreme weather conditions such as snow or heavy rain due to the associated safety concerns with the entire process. The cars completely depend upon a pre-programmed route data due to which these are not bound by the temporary traffic lights and in case of a cautious mode, a slower mode is adopted to deal with unmapped intersections. There is difficulty experienced by the vehicle when it comes to identification of objects like trash and debris of light nature which causes unnecessary veering by the vehicle. Moreover the LIDAR technology does not have the ability to spot potholes or ensure discerning in case humans like a police officer signals the car to stop. Google believes that these issues will be fixed latest by 2020.

Resources for Driver-less Electric Cars

Articles about autonomous cars technology:

Delphi denies its driverless car had close encounter with Google’s, at http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/delphi-denies-its-driverless-car-had-close-encounter-with-googles-10349795.html

Google driverless car, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_driverless_car

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@google @driverlesscars @nodrivercar

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