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How Much Longer Until Fully Autonomous Self-Driving Cars?
Fully autonomous self-driving vehicles won’t need to have a driver’s seat, only passenger seats.

The discovery of a sleeping driver in a self-driving Tesla car on a Massachusetts highway has sparked controversy. People are asking if it’s really okay to sleep while driving a self-driving car. Tesla said, “The Autopilot function is not fully autonomous, so drivers have to be ready to switch to manual operation at any time by paying attention to the road.” They also said that so much progress has been made so far. Which leaves people wondering, how much longer until there are fully autonomous self-driving cars? How much progress has been made so far? What kind of industries will be affected by self-driving cars?

Currently, the automation of self-driving cars is classified from level 1 to level 5. Level 1 is when the driver performs all the work without any automation. Level 2 is when vehicles can reduce their speed depending on traffic and support cruise control to stay in the lane. Level 3 is when cars drive on their own in ideal conditions such as highways with conditional automation. At this level people can remove their hands from the wheel, but they should be in the driver’s seat. Level 4 is when a car can drive itself without human intervention under most conditions. Level 5 is fully autonomous, which enables self-driving on any road and requires no human input at all. These cars have no steering wheels or pedals.

Self-driving level 3 vehicles can drive on the road using Lidar, cameras, sensors, and a real-time navigation system. Sensors are needed for the external environment, detecting vehicle movement, and detecting driver behavior. It is difficult to respond to all possible road situations with just one type of sensor, so cameras and lasers are used to recognize objects around them. Cameras distinguish types of objects clearly through Vision technology. The Lidar accurately measures the movement, information, and location of moving objects. In other words, external factors are identified using sensors, Lidar, and cameras. A real-time system is that it can request for a something task in a limited amount of time. Self-driving cars should be operated in real-time for safety reasons. If it is not possible for the car to determine or control a safety procedure in a limited amount of time, it could lead to a serious accident.

The first thing that needs to be addressed for the mass production of self-driving vehicles is the cost of Lidar sensors. Lidar sensors are the most important sensors because they shoot and receive dense and precise laser beams which calculate exact distances from objects. It is also important to have fail-safe functions. A fail-safe in self-driving cars is how vehicles cope with malfunction or situations when things are not operating normally. Yoo Byung-yong of Kyungil University said that consumers will have to wait until at least 2030 before these problems will be solved.

When fully autonomous self-driving cars are readily available, it is predicted that vehicle sharing services will become a common form of transportation. Through car-sharing services, people will be able to request and use cars whenever they need to instead of owning them outright. Vehicle sharing platform providers can benefit a lot from self-driving services if the price of self-driving systems are lower than the cost of hiring people. That’s why car-sharing service companies, which have currently taken the lead on these platforms, are eager to develop self-driving cars. There will also be fewer gas stations and convenience stores on the road. This is because people won’t have to refuel their cars anymore. Self-driving cars will be able to fuel themselves at times when no one needs them.

박준호  micheen12@naver.com

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