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Self driving cars are cars those do not have any steering wheel, accelerator pedals or brakes. These are capable of sensing and understanding their environment and navigating without much human interference. Each self driving car comes with a GPS unit and an inertial navigation system. Apart from these, self driving cars also come with laser range finders, video and radar and a range of other sensors to make self driving possible.

Positional information is used by the navigation system and the GPS for localization and sensor date is used for refining its position and to estimate a 3D image of the environment around the car. Each sensor filters data received from each sensor to eliminate noise and sometimes fused with the date received from the other sources to improve the original image. There is a control system that ultimately makes use of this date to take the navigation decisions.

Most of the self driving cars at present come with a control system that works on deliberative architecture and this means that the cars or their control systems have the ability to make intelligent decisions by the following ways.

  • An internal map of the world is maintained
  • Making use of the map to find the right path to the desired destination and avoid obstacles present in the road like pedestrians, road structures and vehicles etc.

A set of possible paths are filtered and from there after having selected the best possible path, this decision is converted into commands and fed into the control system or the actuators. This is what controls the steering, brake and throttle of the vehicle.

There are powerful on-board processors those repeat the processes of mapping, localization, path planning, obstacle avoidance several times and in each second unless the car reach the destination.

This is the basic process that is followed by all self driving cars. There are different manufacturers across the world those manufacture these self driving cars and the algorithms and different sensor suites usually differs. The basic mechanism is similar and the rest depends on operational costs and constraints.

The basic mechanism involves the following steps:

  • Mapping and localization
  • Obstacle avoidance and
  • Path planning

The detailed working of each of these as done by the car is a bit complicated and requires technical knowhow and knowledge for understanding the same. Self driving cars have improved over the years and have become better and advanced.

Self-driving cars are the next big thing in the perpetually expanding list of ‘the next big things’. Read about other discoveries which created similar excitement here!

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