The digital era has seen a raft of improvements and development in every sector of the economy. The automobile industry has not been left behind. The ever dynamic technological advancements which are being fuelled by very savvy tech gurus has seen this sector grow by leaps and bounds.
Who would have thought the self-driving or autonomous cars would be a reality? Well, today they are and a fleet of such cars are cruising daily on our roads and highways.
Tesla motors an electric car manufacturing company based in Fremont, California is a trendsetter. They have been instrumental in manufacturing state of the art cars that can self-drive. They have come up with Tesla Autopilot which they have successfully managed to install on their car models namely; Tesla model X and Tesla model S. The models S in an all-electric sedan while the model X is an SUV.
Autopilot works by creating a digital image of the cars surrounding such images are obtained with the help of cameras, sensor radars, and very complex algorithms that aid the car in steering, braking, recognize the road ahead, choose alternative routes, identify other objects on the roads e.t.c.
The first generation of Tesla autopilots had myriad features key among them; traffic aware cruise control, auto steer, auto lane change, auto park, auto summon, side collision avoidance, auto emergency braking, parking assist and speed assist.
The second generation of Tesla autopilots which was launched recently but not fully functional promised to upgrade all of the features above. The new improved features are;Advanced sensor coverage through the introduction of eight cameras that will provide a three sixty degrees visibility range and can stretch as far as 250m. Fitted with ultrasonic sensors to detect soft and hard objects.
The processing power has been improved tremendously up to forty times by introducing neural net software to enhance; vision, sonar, and radar. It also comes with enhanced autopilot and an auto-steer plus for easy navigation through more complex and tighter roads.
Here are five important things you should know about autopilot cars.
1. Auto steer
Tesla autopilot system comes fully fitted with state of the art lane cameras, sensors and a complex but highly functional radar cruise system that ‘sets your hand free’ leaving the car to steer itself. They will ensure that the car does not bump into an oncoming car or the car in front.
Its autonomous braking systems can come from 70mph to standstill. Side collision sensors will perform evasive maneuvers by swerving to avoid a collision while alerting the driver at the same time to take control of the wheel. By just simply tapping the right levers the car can automatically switch lane if sensors deem it a right course of action to take.
2. Data blending
Tesla autopilots systems come fitted with two data sources i.e the GPS data which are used by most cars for navigational purposes and the Tesla autopilot central systems maps that are blended then are interpreted by the car’s sensors to give an accurate picture of the cars external surrounding at every given moment.
Currently, the use of automated cars has not been fully legalized in many states and according to Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk, a lot of data needs to be gathered and collected to prove to the relevant authorities that Tesla autopilot is a safer and more convenient alternative to human drivers.
Until then such laws are implemented, there remains a hindrance not only to Tesla but to the automobile industry as a whole.
4. Autopilot is far from perfect
Tesla autopilot is far from perfect a lot of work needs to be done if the past events are anything to go by. There have been reported cases of accidents being caused by Tesla autopilot some of them have been fatal like the fatal accident in China in January 2016. It is reported that the car which was on autopilot at the time struck a parked street sweeper leading to the death of its driver. There have also been incidents of radar false positives this is whereby the radars may sense objects like over and road signs as objects on the car’s path.
5. Work in progress
With all these technological advancements, full autonomy is still years away. According to Elon Musk, for full autonomy to be realized, more sensors, redundant steering system, redundant forward cameras needs to be added to the systems. He further stated that additional redundancy to any computer systems could lead to failure. This, therefore, implies that Tesla autopilot has its work cut out for them if they would wish to achieve this milestone.