Ten years ago, cars with built-in Bluetooth, GPS, and parking sensors were the domain of luxury vehicles. Now, even the most affordable economy level car has these features. The next 10 years in auto-tech promise to make the last few decades look like a warm-up.
Self-driving cars have been on our minds for a while and the question of when there will be a fully autonomous car is still debatable. Waymo’s CEO, John Krafcik, said that while self-driving cars are here, he does not know if fully automated cars (what’s usually called a Level 5 autonomous vehicle) that can drive in any condition will ever be here. Other manufacturers like BMW say they could be selling completely self-driving cars by as early as 2021.
That said, many cars already feature some level of autonomous capabilities like automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist systems. Tesla’s Autopilot, Nissan ProPILOT Assist, and Audi’s traffic jam assist are already compliant with Levels 2 and 3 of autonomous driving (driver assistance and partial automation). The race for autonomous driving tech, software and hardware alike, is on.
In 10 years, cars will make use of a myriad of sensors in order to understand their driving environment. Each type of sensor has its own strengths and weaknesses in terms of range, detection capabilities, and reliability. A fusion of technologies is required to provide the redundancy needed to sense the environment safely. LIDAR and Radar are two such sensors that supplement cameras. LIDAR systems emit rapid laser signals, sometimes up to 150,000 pulses per second at eye-safe levels. The beams hit objects in the environment, bounce back to a photo-detector, and eventually creates a three-dimensional image of the environment. The Radar system works in much the same way but uses radio waves instead of laser beams.