What Do You Need to Know About Autonomous Vehicles?

What Do You Need to Know About Autonomous Vehicles?

Learn About Autonomous Vehicles

PUBLISHED ONOctober 10, 2022

Autonomous vehicles are on everyone's mind these days. They are changing the way our cities are designed and run, they are a good investment for those looking for a way to support the industry and earn, and they are some of the slickest cars you can see on the road.

There's also some skepticism about the industry, as is often the case with innovation. It comes from the disruption it will present for so many industries. Some are worried about the tech behind it as well.

Here, we will endeavor to explain everything that you need to know about autonomous vehicles in a way that encourages further research.

What is an Autonomous Vehicle in The First Place?

There are a few different terms used to describe the same thing – some call it autonomous vehicles, other driverless cars, and some use the term robotic cars. All of these represent a vehicle that can drive independently without human intervention.

At this point, there are vehicles on the road that do just that. Tesla autopilot mode is a great example of a car that can drive without human steering. However, this and other vehicles with such a mode still require a person to be inside the car.

Different Levels of Autonomy

There are five levels of autonomy when it comes to vehicles, as outlined by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

  • Level 1 is the lowest, and it's known as driver assistance. The driver is still in charge of the vehicle during the drive with these cars.
  • Level 2 is called "partially automated." These are the vehicles when two elements are controlled by automation software. Most of the vehicles that are on the road today and that are called autonomous are at this level.
  • Level 3 is also known as "conditional automation." A vehicle on this level can manage functions essential for safety, such as avoiding collisions and protecting the passengers. These vehicles still require a driver to be present for the ride.
  • Level 4 is called "high automation." These vehicles are fully automated but only within a particular geographic area. Such cars aren't available to the general public, but when they become available, they will rely on existing maps and satellites. These vehicles will be introduced to urban areas first.
  • Level 5 automation is called "full automation." Those are the cars that can drive on their own wherever. We do not have the technology for such vehicles as of yet.

What Technology is Used to Make These Cars Run?

The cars themselves work as any other vehicle. The tech that's used to make the car on its own is also not that new, but the software that combines it – is. Radars, sensors, and GPS are used to allow the vehicle to move around and find its way on the streets.

A central computer is used to put this information into perspective and allow the vehicle to actually process it and move without the help of a driver behind the wheel.

Are Autonomous Vehicles Safe to Drive?

Simply put – yes. Most car crashes happen because of human error. Reckless and inexperienced drivers are the main reason for accidents, and drunk drivers take up a big chunk of the statistics as well.

None of these issues apply to autonomous vehicles, and as long as the tech is up to the task, there will be fewer accidents. An exciting addition to this point of view comes from the fact that the tech gets better the more it is used since the algorithm uses real-life examples to improve itself.

When Are We Going to Give Up on Driving?

The general public won't stop driving any time soon. Level 5 cars aren't there yet, and it will be a while until they become a commodity most can afford. There's also a lot of social backlash against autonomous vehicles that may slow down this process even further.

Many rely on driving for their livelihood, and there are concerns about how automating these tasks will affect their industry and economy as a whole. It's a valid concern since automation has affected other industries this way.


Government regulations are always a bit behind the tech and the industry they are trying to regulate. This is the case with autonomous vehicles as well. Many governments across the world, especially those where the tech is already in use, are struggling to find regulations that will keep this industry in check.

The biggest issue so far is with the software updates for your self-driving car. It will update as it gets better, as is the case with the software on your phone. The software needs to be approved by the government before it's used, so it remains unclear if this is necessary for every update.

Which Companies Are Making These Cars

Many car companies are getting in on this trend since it's a fundamental one, and it will change the industry forever. Some of these are focused on autonomous vehicles alone, and others are classic car companies looking for ways to make new ground.

Microsoft, Google, and NVidia are the most prominent names in the tech world that have an autonomous vehicles division. Baidu is the biggest brand in China, working to revolutionize this field. Ford and General Motors are old car companies that have tried to produce their own lines of autonomous vehicles. Tesla, of course, is the most famous of companies that are focused on autonomous cars alone.

The Use in Public Transportation

Another significant milestone in the use of autonomous vehicles comes with their implementation into public transportation systems. This is happening in cities across the world, and it has been successful so far.

The biggest downside of these experiments comes from the fact that vehicles such as these can work only in limited parts of the city. Those are the parts that are well covered with the proper technology.

Electric Vehicles

Another important innovation that's changing the world of transportation is happening with the emergence of electric vehicles. They were a matter of science fiction just a few years ago, and now they are a reality that we see on every road. The environmental benefits of using these vehicles are immense, and they have become a status symbol of sorts.

There's a convergence between these two trends. Not all autonomous vehicles are electric, but many are, and those that were the first on the market as well. It's, therefore, a new era for transportation in general.

Trucking and Autonomous

Since trucks usually take the same routes numerous times and since they are a significant and basically essential part of any industry – they are greatly affected by automation. There are multiple advantages to using autonomous vehicles for trucking and shipping since most of the industry's costs are about human labor.

Trucking is a big industry that employs many people, and there are fears about how these changes will affect jobs. We're still a long way from making drivers obsolete, but those are the fears many are dealing with.

How Much Will A Self-Driving Car Set You Back?

At this point, there are no completely self-driving cars, but there are cars with autopilot features. These are still on the expensive side, and they haven't had mass appeal yet. Tesla, the most popular model with self-driving capabilities, has just increased the cost of the self-driving feature.

The feature will now cost an additional $15.000, added to the already high price of Tesla vehicles. Those who had ordered the car when the feature was $12.000 will pay the old fee, per their contract at the time. Tesla called this ability "full self-driving," but that's more of a marketing tool than its accurate description.

Agriculture and Farm Machinery

It's often overlooked how important driving is and the use of vehicles for a variety of different industries. That's because we are used to living with driving as an essential skill needed for every industry and type of work.

Agriculture and farming rely on driving on a day to day basis. It, too, will therefore be affected by the use of autonomous vehicles. Some see this as freeing farmers to do other work, and others see it as a threat to jobs in the industry.

John Deer Tractors, the oldest and most well-known tractor company in the world, is on the cutting edge of innovation once again. They will debut their autonomous tractor sometime this year, and there are a lot of rumors about it inside the industry. The company will test the tractor on a few farms before releasing it to the public.

At this point, no one knows how much the tractor will cost, but the equipment used to achieve autonomous driving is priced at $500.000. It's still a long way from small farm owners and everyday use. Big agriculture companies will take advantage of the technology first.

Taxing the Autonomous Vehicles

Since the introduction of autonomous vehicles will change so many industries and our day-to-day lives, ideas have emerged to tax the use and purchase of such vehicles. This will create public funds that can be used to mitigate the effects of sudden change. Since the cars aren't really there yet, these plans are still in the conceptual phase.

There are many who object to the idea for various reasons. Some argue that taxing innovative industries stops the growth and tech development so that others may take the lead in this field. The public, in general, isn't fond of new taxes and additional burdens on consumers.

How are Things in China?

As is the case with many other high-tech products, there's a sense of competition between China and the US – in the world of autonomous vehicles. There are those who claim that, at this point, China is leading in this innovation race.

Just a few months ago, China adopted a set of rules for the use of self-driving cars in public transportation. The rules are strict and only allow the use of such vehicles in areas that have low traffic. However, the matter of using public policy to regulate this field – it's more than others have done.

Car Accidents with Driverless Cars

In recent years there have been a few car accidents involving self-driving cars. In fact, there were over 400 of them last year alone. This is because there are more such cars on the roads and therefore more chance of an accident.

An accident involving a BMW car has led to a fatality, and it has caused a great deal of controversy. The car wasn't in self-driving mode at the time of the accident, and most other accidents have involved a human error on the part of the human driver inside or outside the self-driving vehicle.

An interesting legal issue has come out of these accidents. In most cases, the vehicles were owned by the car companies that have been testing them. The problem, therefore, remains who is to blame for an accident involving a driverless car.

In some cases, the manufacturers of autonomous vehicles have compensated those injured in the crash, but no clear legal precedents have been established in this new field of law. Soon, the courts will have to set up a way to address the issue.

To Sum Up

Autonomous vehicles are one of the most critical innovations in the world of transportation. These cars that are able to drive on their own are already on our roads, but they are not yet fully autonomous. They will be soon, and this change will affect every single aspect of our lives and our industries.

It will still take some time until autonomous vehicles have reached the point where they are able to drive on their own regardless of where they are and at any time. Governments, companies, and public policymakers are working on preparing for that day in terms of laws but also habits and attitudes.

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