Self-driving cars, also known as autonomous cars, are vehicles that do not require full control from humans. The cars majorly function and operate by themselves.
It uses a combination of software and sensors to navigate through roads and control parts of the car to perform specific tasks and drive themselves on roads.
Despite engineers and developers working hard to create smarter and safer autonomous cars, fully autonomous cars that can drive themselves without any human intervention do not exist yet.
There are levels of autonomy within self-driving cars that have been established by professional engineers worldwide that give us a better understanding of what features these cars have and how much of self-driving cars they are.
The levels of autonomy goes as follows;
- Level 0 autonomy means that the car is equipped with safety features such as emergency brakes and visual and audio alerts but the car is fully controlled by the human driver.
- Level 1 refers to cars that have a small degree of control over acceleration, steering, and braking; generally focused on accident avoidance.
- Level 2 vehicles entail several active measures that work together in unison to take over a certain degree of control of the vehicle from the driver. These cars have sensors built-in, cameras attached, and radar sensors installed to keep the car at a steady speed on the required lane.
- Level 3 autonomy refers to cars that take complete control of the car in select conditions and enable the driver to focus on other things. The conditions that these self-driving cars find suitable include specific highways or locations that have been geofenced. These vehicles do not perform well or even work in poor weather conditions.
- Level 4 autonomy compromise of self-driving cars that are capable of adapting quickly to different roads and poor weather conditions. Here the driver does not give any input to the car.
- Level 5 autonomy refers to cars that completely drive themselves regardless of the environment, road, or weather conditions.
Now that you are aware of the different autonomy levels, we can now look at recent advancements in self-driving cars.
You will find that most cars fall under level 2 autonomy where the driver is mostly in control and has input but the self-driving car has a certain degree of control.
Cars from Tesla’s AutoPilot to Cadillac Super Cruise fall under this autonomy and require drivers to remain focused on the road.
Drivers need to be aware of the limitations that these semi-autonomous cars hold. Not all cars with autopilot features are capable of driving themselves.
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Self-driving cars that have achieved level 3 autonomy where the driver can let go of the steering wheel but still have their eyes on the road has been implemented in a handful of cars. Cars from NIO, Audi, and Nissan have this operation but are faced with certain limitations such as being driven on particular roads and most of the time at low speeds.
There has been an emergence of level 4 autonomous vehicle services popularly known as robotaxi. These services have been operated by big tech companies such as Waymo, Aptiv, and DeNA.
The robotaxi have been launched in limited areas with certain conditions such as mild traffic. The robotaxi is capable of taking all driving functions but has a backup human driver at hand all the time for safety reasons.
With time, more Level 3 autonomy vehicles will slowly be integrated into highways. Companies have prioritized safety over anything else and are taking intense measures to ensure that these self-driving cars are safe on roads.
It is possible to say that by 2025, we will be able to overcome remarkable milestones in self-driving cars in that driving will no longer be for humans but machinery. Occupants of vehicles will now only be termed as passengers and no longer drivers and passengers.
In February 2020, a man lost his life after crashing on a concrete barrier in his semi-autonomous Tesla. He was perceived to have been playing video games at the time of his death.
The situation would have been messier if the car had no insurance cover.
This is why it is always important to get your car insured. If you are looking for one, I would advise that you read some car insurance reviews before settling for any insurance cover.
The chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board following the crash exclaimed that people needed to be aware that partially automated cars are not in any way self-driving cars.