Within a few years from today, many reputed car companies such as Google Waymo, Uber, Tesla, GM, Audi, and more will be offering their own versions of autonomous vehicles.
Google in particular, recently unveiled details of its autonomous cars project. After having tested it intensely inside the Google campus, the company is now trying out the vehicle on public roads. Based on how the search engine giant is going about this project, it won’t be wrong to state that the road to realising self-driving car nirvana isn’t very far now! Let’s talk about some of the top technologies which are powering these autonomous cars by Google.
The car has a camera mounted on its windshield which enables it to see the objects right in front. These could be anything ranging from motorists, pedestrians to even stray animals. This camera also has the job of detecting and recording information related to traffic lights and road signs, all of which get intelligently interpreted by its integrated software. Before moving on to the next point, here’s all the latest on this self-driving car project of Google.
This constitutes the heart of Google’s autonomous car. Called Lidar, it’s a rotating camera fixed on the car’s rooftop, which works like a laser range finder. The camera uses its 64 laser beams to create 3D images of all the objects surrounding the car, enabling it to detect any hazards along its path.
The distance of the object from the car is calculated based on the time taken by the laser beams to hit it and return back to the car. What is even more impressive is that these laser beams are of high intensity enough to create images and calculate the distance of objects falling within a 200 m radius.
The car’s rear and front bumpers are fitted with four radars that help the car in detecting vehicles behind and in front of it. This technology is the same as the modern-day cruise control systems which come pre-fitted in cars nowadays. The radar sensor keeps a close digital watch on the vehicle ahead.
The programming of the software is done in a manner that the car always maintains a 2 to 4 seconds distance (sometimes even more) at all times. Hence, it’s this technology that enables the car to slow down or speed up depending upon the driving behavior of the driver/car in front.
There is an aerial fitted on the car’s rear which constantly receives information from the GPS satellites, related to its precise current location. The GPS inertial navigation unit inside the car works hand-in-hand with these sensors, enabling the car to localise itself.
However, considering the fact that GPS estimates can sometimes be way off (at least by many metres, thanks to signal disturbances and various other interferences), this data is constantly compared against the sensor map data obtained earlier from the very same place. With the vehicle on the move, its internal map is regularly updated with the changing positional information.