Every so often, there comes a paradigm shift in the automotive industry. The last big shift was the development of electric vehicles that were commercially viable since the development of fuel cells and batteries reached a new level. Since the advent of driver-assist systems, many people have speculated about what will be next. Many concluded that the future of driving is self-driving cars.
Cruise control was the first big step toward a self-driving vehicle. The addition of an onboard control computer revolutionized cars’ abilities. Cruise control takes control of the speed of your car by monitoring its actual speed several times per second and making adjustments to maintain that speed as best as it can. This is a critical function in driving, and your car is able to manage it fairly accurately.
Performance Management Systems
Performance management systems were also needed to move cars toward self-driving status. These systems monitor aspects of your car’s performance other than speed, like traction and brake efficiency, to help you keep control. Anti-lock brakes are a good example of a performance management system that is widespread. It monitors the force on your brakes when you are braking, and releases the tension periodically so that your tires don’t lock up and skid. It may seem like a small improvement, but it gives cars the ability to control their own braking and, combined with cruise control, their speed as well.
The next leap forward came in the form of driver-assist systems. While most cars had the ability to control their speed through cruise control, much more goes into driving safely. Driver-assist systems fill in these gaps with different features that can handle different situations. For example, emergency braking systems monitor the surroundings and react faster than you can. Lane keeping assistants watch where you are and adjust to keep you in the lane. Monitoring systems give your car the ability to see what’s going on in a way that most drivers cannot, which was a big hurdle for a car to be able to drive itself.
The biggest advancement toward self-driving cars came in the form of self-maneuvering cars. These are cars that combine all of the previous systems with a high-performance computer so that they can handle basic maneuvers on their own. You can find these in cars that have parking assist and self-parking systems.
Believe it or not, there are already self-driving cars on the road. Google and several competitors road-tested self-driving vehicles successfully in the past few years. They may not be the prettiest vehicles with their large outboard sensors and monitoring arrays, but they can get the job done on their own.
The development of self-driving cars is a big priority for many companies since they believe that self-driving cars are more luxurious and have the potential to be safer than manned vehicles. They could offer benefits like lighter traffic through autonomous car coordination, as well as solve a big problem that the country faces with the need for more truck drivers. Many people think that a commercial version of a self-driving vehicle is not that far away.
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