The concept of self-driving or autonomous vehicles (AVs) has been around for decades and has been utilized for industrial applications. Industrial robots, for example, have helped build cars since the sixties. Now AVs are starting to show up on highways around the world including in the United States.
Current AV Development
As the 2020s unfold, autonomous vehicles have already played a role in advanced AI development. There is now a growing selection of these vehicles in the form of passenger cars, trucks, and even drones. Each of these configurations has AI technology capabilities and IoT sensors that connect with radar, cameras, and other electronic systems. The combination of this technology allows an AI-based automated vehicle to "see the road" and respond to sudden changes in road conditions.
Here are the different levels of AV sophistication:
Level 1: Driver Assistance - The driver is mainly in control while the vehicle has limited self-driving functions, such as automatically adjusting cruise control speed.
Level 2: Partial Automation - Certain driving functions such as acceleration adjustments are handled by the AV. In this scenario, the driver still must oversee and direct navigation in cases such as entering or exiting a freeway or changing lanes.
Level 3: Conditional Automation - The vehicle has the ability to track data from the road environment and perform certain functions such as acceleration and braking, but still relies on human guidance.
Level 4: High Automation - The AV can control all driving functions and can operate without human assistance for specific applications.
Level 5: Full Automation - No human assistance is needed for these AVs to perform transport assignments.
These levels of automation help categorize the different types of AVs and EVs that are already available on the market. While level 2 vehicles already exist among high-end models such as Tesla EVs, level 4 is currently in the stages of testing. Level 5 is still just a concept, but technological innovation is moving closer toward its realization.
How Electric Vehicles Will Enhance Society
A widespread cultural shift to electric vehicles would help clean up the environment and improve people's quality of life in numerous ways. Batteries power AVs and other electric vehicles (EVs), which produce zero greenhouse gases. The more electric vehicles populate the streets, the more cities will see reductions in air pollution. The spread of AVs will help reduce traffic congestion, as traffic will be more controlled based on AI-driven data analysis.
Cars will have greater abilities to communicate with other vehicles, as well as with the local infrastructure. This sophisticated mobile networking will help connect citizens quicker with the local services they need.
Stepping Stones for AV Success
Here are the four crucial areas stakeholders must focus on to ensure a safe and successful transition to AVs:
- Infrastructure - Interconnectivity with a city's digital infrastructure will become essential in the development of smart cities that encompass AVs. That means local governments will need to invest in upgraded equipment so that AVs can interact properly with traffic lights and other traffic control devices.
- Regulations - Lawmakers must strengthen regulations on safety, insurance, and use of the road. Political leaders need to further take into account privacy and data protection regulations to prevent exploitation of confidential data.
- Acceptance - In order for citizens to accept AVs on the road, they will need to be included in pilot projects that gather community feedback. Surveys show Americans are open to AV use but many have reservations about sharing an automated taxi with strangers.
- Collaboration - Stakeholders need to establish partnerships with mobility providers and technology manufacturers who can help contribute to smart infrastructure.
The age of autonomous vehicles has arrived and will only evolve more dramatically with smart infrastructure, IoT sensors, and AI technology. The modern transformation of American cities will benefit from AVs through reduced traffic, improved access to public transportation, and increased free space in urban areas.