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Autonomous cars: a very near future

Autonomous cars are becoming a reality. There is less and less time before various vehicles with autonomous control systems begin to surround us en masse. According to the forecast, by 2030 more than half of the cars in the world will be equipped with an autopilot system. So the hour is not equal when we, getting into the car, instead of driving, set the route, lean back in our comfortable chair, so that while driving we can read our favorite book, newspaper or magazine or spend time on the road watching a movie, let’s go on the road, trusting the computer

Autonomous cars
Google self-driving car at the Googleplex (Image Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)

You must have noticed that little by little different auto brands have been incorporating automatic assistants in their latest models? Well, this is just a snack, the prelude to what the main brands are cooking to put on the market in just a few years.

Thus, in times where the vast majority of drivers yearn to drive green vehicles in general, and electric vehicles in particular, technology companies such as Google and major motoring houses are fighting a fierce competition for putting their autonomous cars into circulation. Now, how will the first autonomous cars be? What brands are leading this fight? Which countries are more prepared for expansion? Will they have affordable prices or will they be prohibitive?

Do not miss a comma of what we are going to tell you and you will find all the answers to these questions and much more right here.

What will the first autonomous cars be like?

Perhaps, when talking about autonomous cars, a completely independent and intelligent car immediately came to mind. However, there are several different types or grades of autonomous cars. In fact, today you can see how more and more brands are including some features of the cars of the future as standard. But come on, to see KITT in circulation, the fantastic car, there is still a lot.

Fully autonomous cars will have to travel a long road not without difficulties, especially in terms of infrastructure, legal and even social, as we will see later. However, we are currently advancing by leaps and bounds thanks to the effort being made by technology and motoring companies to develop all the technologies necessary for these vehicles to be a reality.

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Basically, autonomous cars achieve their autonomy thanks to a powerful computer, which acts as a brain, and to different sensors, which function as if they were the car’s senses. In this way, the computer processes at all times all the information that comes through the sensors, which are responsible for capturing the information of the environment necessary to be able to circulate on the road with total safety.

What are those sensors? Well, the answer will depend on each manufacturer. Today, there are several possibilities that have already proven their effectiveness. In this way, you can see the striking “LIDAR” used by cars such as those that Google is developing and that is nothing more than a three-dimensional laser radar placed on the roof, thanks to which the computer generates a three-dimensional image to know in which environment is unfolding at all times.

You can also find video cameras, which can replace LIDAR or work as a complement to it because although LIDAR is the most accurate system, it is also true that it has problems recognizing obstacles on the road such as potholes. For example, Volvo will not use the LIDAR, and instead, use radars and color video cameras.

Precisely, the radars are other sensors that will incorporate autonomous cars and will help inform the computer about the distances between the vehicle and other elements of the road. To complement the work of the radars, ultrasonic sensors will be incorporated, the scope of which is smaller, but which are ideal to save you trouble in the parking lot.

To all of the above, you have to add other components such as precision GPS, thanks to which the car will not only know what is around it but also know where it is and where it is to go.

Characteristics of future autonomous cars

After seeing the amount of high-tech elements you might be thinking about outlandish designs. Well, maybe some manufacturers bet on it, but the reality is that the prototypes of brands such as BMW, Volvo, Nissan, Kia, Audi, and SsangYong offer us very similar designs to those we are accustomed to.

And, one way to approach users without causing rejection is by offering them a “wrapper” with which they are already familiar. In addition, another characteristic of autonomous cars, or rather their evolution, is the progressive incorporation of the different technological components.

As a result of the above, for a few years, you will have noticed how different brands have been incorporating elements such as video cameras, GPS, automatic limitation or the automatic parking assistant. All this has familiarized us with new technologies and, almost without realizing it, we are already predisposed to the adoption of increasingly autonomous and intelligent vehicles.

Being in the experimentation phase, the final design of these prototypes is still to be determined. To give you an idea, Google has gone from raising the production of totally autonomous cars without steering wheel, to include the double option of autonomous and manual driving. What does seem true is that to a greater or lesser extent all brands will continue to focus on developing green cars.

When will autonomous cars go on sale and what brands will they do it?

It should be noted that, at this point, there is no consensus even within the various companies involved. Thus, while some indicate the year 2020 as a key date, others more conservative set a somewhat broader timeframe, such as Kia, whose first model we could see in circulation between 2020 and 2030.

The point is that the most thriving companies in this sector seem to agree that in five years’ time you will be able to see the odd automobile running through your smart cities. Among these companies, Google is being the one that is most noted for being the most media, along with Apple, although it seems that the company founded by Steve Jobs has ceased in the effort to manufacture its iCar – but quiet, they are still immersed in the Development of your own self-driving software. According to this technology company, your automatic car will be ready by 2020.

Another company to consider is Nissan. Nissan Leaf 2017 could be ready at the same time as Google. You should not lose sight of this Japanese company, as this electric model has taken it to the forefront and they are already studying the incorporation of assisted driving systems similar to that of the Tesla Model S.

Nor do they intend to miss their appointment from the Volkswagen group, whose Audi RS seven already circulates satisfactorily at 305 km / h without a driver in circuits. However, the German group does not want to catch their fingers and we still do not know their exact release date.

For something later, the Volvo autonomous driving bet is expected. Specifically, they have announced that by 2021 they will be able to market their high-end models S90 and XC90 with the built-in autonomous system.

Finally, one of the largest companies that have taken the longest to announce its launch date has been SsangYong, which will launch its SsangYong Korando also towards 2020.

How much will these autonomous cars cost?

It is still difficult for manufacturers to determine the final price of these cars. In fact, we can only talk about conjectures, with the exception of Volvo, which has already estimated at 9,000 euros to include in its S90 and XC90 models the autonomous system.

For their part, before leaving the project, Apple said that their iCar could be around $75,000. However, this helps us to illustrate that in line with this price range would be Google cars, since only its LIDAR system costs around $60,000.

What is clear is that the general public will have to wait to be able to “drive” these cars, because we must also consider the fact that most of them will be electric vehicles like those of Tesla, Nissan, and Google.

Therefore, in the absence of specifying in more detail the final price of these vehicles, the most reasonable thing is to look at the cars that already circulate on our roads and that are closer to the reality of the autonomous car of the future. The best example is in the Tesla Model S, with its AutoPilot and its more than 78,000 euros.

To conclude, you have to keep in mind that technology usually goes ahead of society. For this reason, although technological means are available by 2020, we cannot lose sight of the fact that there are still many social and legal aspects to be specified. And, the ethical and legal implications that automatic cars bring with them could delay their full implementation in the market. For example, would you ride a car that, to save other lives, put your own at risk?

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