Autonomous driving: Levels of autonomy and sensors

Autonomous car
Autonomous driving and advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) are the future things and are also offered in some of the luxury and premium vehicles currently. They might come under the same category but they are very different. Autonomous driving car is a vehicle that monitors the surrounding and moves with little or no human intervention. The ADAS is an electronic system that assists drivers in driving and parking functions.

Level of Autonomy

Level autonomy
Well, To differentiate an autonomous car and advanced driver assist system we first have to know the level of automation. There are 6-levels of automation.

Level 0 and Level 1 (hands on)

Level 1 parking sensors
Level 0 automated systems issue warnings and do not have control over the car and In level 1 the driver and the vehicle share the control. Examples are systems where the driver controls the steering wheel and the system controls power to maintain a particular speed(cruise control), or systems where steering is controlled by the computer and the driver has to be ready to take over the control (parking assist). Level 0 and the level 1 autonomous systems can be considered as ADAS.

Level 2 (Hands off)

Level 2 Tesla autopilot
The computer takes control of the vehicle such as acceleration, braking and also steering. The driver must monitor the driving and be ready to take over the control. There might be cameras that monitor that your eyes are on the road or will need you to touch the steering wheel like in Tesla. Yes Tesla autopilot comes under the Level 2 .

Level 3 (eyes off)

Level 3 waymo autonomous car
The system takes the control of the vehicle and the driver can take the attention away. The vehicle will handle most of the situations like emergency braking. The driver should still be ready to intervene in some conditions. It can be considered as a co-driver and will alert you when it is your turn to take over

Level 4 (Mind off)

Level 4 automation
Level 4 of automation will not require drivers’ attention in any situation that means you can go to sleep or watch a movie . However this will be allowed  in certain parts of the world depending on other cars moving around. It will have a steering wheel that will allow you to drive around on your own.

Level 5 (steering wheel optional)

Level 5 GM cruise
In Level 5 automation no human intervention is needed. It will be a vehicle that drives around itself on any surface, all over the world, all the time.


Sensors in self driving car
Autonomous vehicles would be impossible without sensors. It is through the sensors that autonomous cars can see and sense what is going on around them. There are three types of sensors that are used for autonomous driving and ADAS. 

Camera sensors

Camera sensors
Autonomous cars will have video cameras to see what’s around them just like humans. It is through image processing the computer decodes the image. The cars will have cameras in all the directions to have  360 degree view of the external environment. 

Radar Sensors

Radar sensors for autonomous driving
Radar is an essential sensor for automation. It is majorly used for sensing the distance between cars and calculating the relative speed. It basically shoots out radio waves and detects the reflected waves. There are short range radio sensors used for functions like blind spot monitoring and long range sensors used for functions like lane management and emergency braking.

Lidar sensors

Lidar for autonomous driving
Lidar or light detection and ranging sensors work similar to radar systems. The only difference is that it uses a laser instead of radio waves. Apart from measuring the distance it also allows 3D image mapping. This can create a complete 3D image of the surrounding.

Image Credits:
Dllu, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Ian Maddox, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Grendelkhan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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