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The Technology Behind Self-Driving Cars

technology behind self-driving cars

As we move from vehicles with driver assist features more toward actual self-driving cars, many may wonder, how do they even work? And will they keep my family safe? Self-driving cars, also known as autonomous cars, are much closer to a daily reality than you may think.

People may think of self-driving cars as being driven by artificial intelligence but autonomous is not synonymous with artificial intelligence. A self-driving car can have automated features without “thinking” on its own. Features like adaptive cruise control and lane assist are a couple common automation features that do not use artificial intelligence to operate.

However, self driving cars have evolved far beyond these perks. Tesla and Waymo are popular cars who are testing increased autonomous features to require less operation from a driver. There are levels of autonomy from zero being the driver is in complete control of everything to level five being full automation — as in you are being chauffeured without hiring a driver. Higher sophistication requires a combination of hardware, software, machine learning and lots of testing to ensure a safe drive for all involved.

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The goal is to dramatically reduce the number of crashes on our roads as 93% of crashes are caused by human error. It wouldn’t do to have all this technology behind self-driving cars to make driving safer for humans and have the cars fail. Take for instance a couple of crashes in 2018 in which self-driving cars were at fault. There is still data to enter and testing to be done to perfect self-driving cars and protect drivers.

This infographic from The Simple Dollar shares some of the technology behind self-driving cars and how it works.

technology behind self-driving cars animated infographic

If you’re still a little confused, like I am, you can read a more detailed version of the self driving cars infographic here. This guide breaks down the different levels of autonomous driving and the typical cars and vehicle safety features that fall under these different levels. It also explains how common software and hardware used by self driving cars work and the current issues facing self driving cars.

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