What Drives a Driverless Car?
How the tech inside Tesla’s and Waymo’s self-driving vehicles really works
In 2018, the World Health Organization reported that road traffic injuries were the leading killer of people ages five to 29. An estimated 1.35 million deaths worldwide were due to vehicle crashes. One possible solution to this problem:
Don’t let humans drive.
In 94% of the cases, the driver was at fault. Driverless cars are expected to drastically reduce crash-related deaths. Here’s proof.
Self-driving cars are far from perfect, but in addition to reducing crashes, driverless cars are expected to bring benefits like higher productivity, better traffic management, and reduced energy consumption. But how do driverless cars actually drive?
If your car has adaptive cruise control, you already have an idea. But these modes barely scratch the surface of what’s possible, falling into either level one or two in the six levels of driving automation formulated by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
Making cars that operate at level four and five has been the goal of companies pursuing driverless tech. A relatively small number of test cars have reached level four, while none have reached level five. Achieving complete level five autonomy relies on three broadly interconnected technological factors: sensors, software, and connectivity.
Sensors, sensors, and more sensors
A wide variety of sensors, including radar, ultrasonics, and cameras, are installed to give cars the ability to “see.” But there’s no universally defined number or types of sensor. The two leading companies, Waymo (owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet) and Tesla, differ in their approaches.