Autonomous Cars — A quick introduction

Depiction of Autonomous Cars (Source: roboticsbusinessreview.com)

Self Driving Cars have been one of the most well-known and popular applications of Artificial Intelligence today. Numerous news stories and opinions about this technology offer differing perspectives of the technology, some positive and some skeptical. In this blog post, I will explain the companies that are behind Autonomous cars and I will give a brief introduction to the technology (both hardware and software) behind Autonomous Cars. In a future post, I will highlight the most important pros and cons of this technology. Through this post, I hope that I can provide enough information about Autonomous Cars in order for the readers to be well-informed about this technology that will change the future.

Autonomous car companies and organizations

In addition, some companies working on Autonomous cars already have partial automation features such as autopilot and cruise control. Tesla is one major example, as all of it’s new models have autopilot, auto park, and lane assistance features. They use these features as a gradual transition to a completely autonomous car. These companies also test prototype versions of their Autonomous cars in different regions of the United States, with a majority of them operating in California.

Locations where Autonomous Cars from numerous companies are tested (Yahoo Finance)

Hardware and Software behind Autonomous Cars

“Lidar is a fool’s errand … [They are] expensive sensors that are unnecessary”

— Elon Musk

Both of these technologies have their advantages and disadvantages, especially in terms of cost and resolution. Lidar sensors tend to be much more expensive than radar and cameras and they are much larger than radar and cameras. However, the cost of Lidar has been significantly decreasing as a result of increased production. One of the major problems with radar is that it has a very poor resolution compared to Lidar, which makes it harder to detect and identify objects. However, the addition of numerous cameras in Tesla cars lowers this problem since cameras have much better resolution than radar. Both of these technologies have been rapidly improving and are also becoming a lot cheaper, making both a viable option for newer Autonomous car companies and organizations.

A representation of the hardware behind Tesla’s Self Driving Cars (laserfocusworld.com)

In terms of software, all major Autonomous car companies use one of many new ML models and Neural networks designed for Autonomous cars. In a broad sense, the three major aspects of Autonomous car software is to detect the object, identify or classify the object, and then localize or predict the movement of the object. There are 4 different types of algorithms that are used to accomplish these tasks: cluster algorithms, pattern recognition algorithms, regression algorithms, and decision matrix algorithms. For these 4 main types of algorithms, AdaBoost, Bayesian Regression, Multi-class Neural Network, and Support Vector Machines (SVM) are some of the most popular kinds. These algorithms have been constantly improving as a result of the rising interest and participation in the Self Driving car industry. Major companies such as Waymo (Google), Tesla, and Uber use some or all of these models and algorithms in their Self Driving cars, contributing to greater innovation in the field of Machine learning and AI. These models and algorithms, combined with input from sensor and camera data, are the most essential components of an Autonomous car.

I hope that this post has given you a better understanding of a very consequential and innovative technology that has the potential to alter the future. It has already caused numerous changes to the transportation industry, with major automakers entering this field along with technology companies. In a future post, I will signify the major pros and cons of this technology.

Karthik Bagavathy is a Student Ambassador in the Inspirit AI Student Ambassadors Program. Inspirit AI is a pre-collegiate enrichment program that exposes curious high school students globally to AI through live online classes. Learn more at https://www.inspiritai.com/.

A blog that I created to expand on my passions for Artificial Intelligence and other interesting and futuristic technologies