Who are the next lot of working-class people who’ll soon be replaced by robots? That’s right, car drivers. Uber, world’s leading company in car rentals, recently acquired 16 Ford manufactured fully automated driverless cabs. Automatically driven cars or automated cars are the next stepping stone for the automotive industry. In future, the plan is to eliminate all the pedals and steering wheel – you just simply climb aboard, set your destination and let the electronics do the rest. That’s the final vision that companies have.
- How are these cars driven? – The automated cars will obviously have a complexly programmed and protocol driven computer or a robot. It is trained for all drivable conditions on the road. A set of cameras provide a complete view of surroundings to the computer and to monitor the traffic lights. A top mounted laser emitting Lidar unit provide a 3-dimensional scan of the environment. Antennas help the car to find its way by GPS. The amalgamation of all these units leads to the automatic driving of a car.
- What about the system programming? – Well, this is a work still in progress. The robot needs to be programmed for every possible situation out there whether it’s a traffic jam or for an empty road. Since the robots will always lack the capacity to think and act like humans, their functionality will always be limited in the real world scenarios where the human intelligence to act on the spot is required.
- Current scenario – We, the common people, have already started witnessing the automated driving experience. For now, it’s called “Assisted driving”. Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) system applies brakes in case of a potential crash, lane departure tech keeps the motorist on track if he/she were likely to stray off, low-speed driving assistance system for cruising at speeds of 30-80 km/h; are some of the features of assisted driving. The most awesome feature is the automatic parking system, provided in Volkswagen Passat. Just press the button and the car will automatically park itself. Cool right?!
- What next? – Experts suggest that by around 10 years from now, a car will be able to drive itself fully from door to door without a driver needing to touch the wheel. This will include driving on motorways and in city environments that feature traffic lights, junctions, and roundabouts. Cars will be connected wirelessly to each other and communicate with the road infrastructure to make decisions on traffic and journey times.
Well, the days are not much behind when the vehicles from movies like – I Robot, Star Wars, Star Trek etc., will become accessible in real life. But, in India, where the population is still struggling with the traffic rules and driving ethics; automated driving would be a big gamble. How can we program robots for loud honking, wrong overtakes, huge speed-breakers (car breakers truly), road rage etc.; on Indian roads? But hey! Never say never. Maybe, next time you book a taxi, a driverless car would arrive.