Autonomous driving is becoming increasingly important. Cars are already taking many tasks off the driver's hands: They can park on their own, keep in lane and match speed with the car in front. Every year, more functions are added here. It's only a matter of time before steering will be completely automated.
The technology behind autonomous driving
Autonomous driving relies heavily on the use of various sensors, whose data is then analyzed in real time:
Video cameras provide images of the surroundings. A front camera records the road, including its markings, traffic signs and road users. Other cameras provide images of the other three sides. An additional camera on the roof provides an all-round view. Parallel camera sensors can even record a three-dimensional image, helping the autonomous system to better estimate distances and speeds.
Radar sensors measure the distance to other vehicles and other objects. Several sensors with different ranges are used for this purpose: High-range sensors measure distant objects, low-range sensors those in the near vicinity.
Ultrasonic sensors are already used today as parking aids. They can reliably measure distances in the centimeter range.
LiDAR sensors are a new technology. LiDAR stands for "Light Detection And Ranging." They use laser beams for measurement, as opposed to radio waves in radar. Their advantage is their long range: they can "see" up to 200 meters away, even at night. They thus complement the less range-intensive radar sensors and the light-dependent video cameras.
The GPS system provides the on-board computer with precise location data. For autonomous driving, road maps accurate to the centimeter and a fast navigation system are needed so that the automobile knows in real time at all times which lane it is currently in.
The data obtained is then integrally processed by computers with artificial intelligence. In this way, decisions on driving direction and speed can be made in the shortest possible time.
The benefits of autonomous driving
In an ideal world, the autonomous vehicle is the perfect driver: autonomous vehicles obey all traffic rules, coordinate with each other, react faster than any human to dangerous situations, and maintain an optimally energy-efficient driving style. They are never aggressive to other road users and do not behave recklessly.
In addition to this gain in safety and environmental friendliness, autonomous driving above all ensures more time. Passengers no longer have to pay attention to road traffic and can devote their time to other pursuits while driving. In addition, the importance also lies in the demographic development of our society: there are more and more older people who can no longer drive for health reasons, but at the same time do not want to do without mobility. For them, autonomous driving will replace today's cabs and other costly transportation services.