Autonomous Vehicles, Driverless Cars and Enabling the Future

Jake MacWhirter

The autonomous vehicles landscape 

By now we have all heard of autonomous vehicles or driverless cars; and the realisation that a world where these vehicles will be commonplace is slowly setting in. The technology enabling the artificial intelligence (AI) and decision-making within these vehicles is becoming increasingly sophisticated. With greater processing capability and speed unlocking the next level of accuracy, safety and reliability of development autonomous vehicles, manufacturers like Tesla, BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo are now investing millions into what will surely become the future of the automotive market.

Over the years, I have seen the level of complexity of prototypes and their demand for power and processing increase substantially. Multiple subsystems demanding more and more power and interconnectivity, heavy reliance on sensing speed and obstacle detection, increased accuracy for navigation, positioning and multiple imaging systems are all factors that currently require a huge amount of energy, space and cooling.

autonomous vehicles driverless cars

Driverless cars: Scaling prototypes

On the whole, the latest generation of prototypes are workable and are close enough to implementation that it is clear it is no longer a matter of if, but when, driverless cars start to roll off the production lines in volumes and appear in the dealerships and on our streets as products rather than concepts. There will of course be genuine tragedies, headlines, trepidation and hiccups along the way that influence public opinion and progression rates. However historically, this is the journey that new technology must take and the obstacles it has to overcome. Progress is rarely smooth and it is the lessons in the detail of the setbacks that enable success for future platforms.

Starting with public transport, shuttle and taxi services, full automation will move quickly into the consumer sector as trust is built and technology is proven. We are already familiar with some of the features of autonomous vehicles; self-parking, obstacle avoidance and detection to name a few. The manufacturers are priming the market and desensitising us to concepts so that when the products are ready for release, the market is primed to consume. It will soon become a reality for drivers to choose whether to be a critical part of the autonomous vehicles’ operation for all or part of a journey. Uptake and purchases will then increase, enabling manufacturers to fund further development and scale upwards.

autonomous vehicles driverless cars

Here is a brief overview of  autonomy levels for driverless cars:

  • Level 0: A driver is needed at all times for all tasks.
  • Level 1: Limited driver assistance, limited control of steering acceleration and breaking (under specific circumstances). Improves safety and comfort, warns driver of dangers etc.
  • Level 2: Driver assist, limited capability for autonomous control of steering breaking and acceleration, can perform tasks such as self-parking etc. Key features are automated with the driver still maintaining control.
  • Level 3: A co-pilot level functionality for mapped and known environments. A driver is needed to initiate and manage operation.
  • Level 4: Capable of performing all functional needs including safety actions on most roads and varying conditions without human intervention. Full driver capability and cockpit maintained.
  • Level 5: Fully autonomous. No driver requirement or controls.
autonomous vehicles driverless cars

The future of autonomous vehicles

The future is here, and fully autonomous vehicles will have a place, however as a consumer you can’t buy one just yet… So where do companies like Captec come in? We are not manufacturers of driverless cars, we are not the electronic component manufacturers, and we do not currently write code or software.

We do, however, do something quite wonderful and necessary within all technology sectors. The world is full of great thinkers, great ideas, prototypes and concepts for all kinds of fantastic technological advances. The world is not short of great ideas. The issue is that of all the truly great thinkers, only a few have the ability to actualise ideas themselves. What we do is support these thinkers and their teams and allow them to become doers, enabling their ideas, working with them and their partners to develop functional prototypes. We translate plans into technology and hardware that turns an idea into a manufactured, reliable product that is simplified, consolidated, condensed, meets the desired aesthetic and retains cost-effectiveness. Our engineering and integration capabilities are extensive and the solutions we work on vary from handheld devices to portable suites of computing capability. We put the performance and functionality you need into any environment irrespective of mobility of hostility.

We exist in the background working as extensions of customers, expanding their capability, accelerating their time to market, de-risking their programmes and ensuring compliance to enable the concepts of today’s progression to become the products of the future. Customers use our experience, facilities, capabilities and expertise to complement their own. Working with Captec and many companies like us, businesses can transform the world and bring dreams to reality. We cut through the noise, see through the disruption and apply solid reliable principles to ensure you get what you need, when you need it, and that it does what is required.

If you have something you are working on and would like to talk to one of our specialists, get in touch and find out how we can help you realise your objectives.

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