Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) may take time to become mainstream. But ‘Drive-Assist’ technologies, including concepts like ‘Driver Override Systems’ (Giving the car the final say, not the driver), will fast become popular. Already we have seen introduction of lane assist and parking assist features in high-end cars, which will start becoming commonplace with lowering costs of sensors.
Optical sensors have been around for a while. New technologies in Radar and Lidar, Bluetooth and WiFi enabled IOT Sensors, Smart Cameras and AI are enabling better decision-making by machines and cars. Data gathered from multiple input sources – camera, IOT, Radar etc. mapped on a common platform present a realistic image of exactly where the vehicle is, the environment and vehicle dynamics. Thus it can automatically predict when it is straying off course or facing an obstacle and make instant course correction. A lot faster than humans and never distracted.
More and more functions in the car getting automated, reduces need for manual intervention. While automatic transmission is an existing technology, it adds substantial cost to a car. New age, low cost smart controllers and motors are helping take away manual effort like doing away with clutch operation in a manual transmission car, automatic emergency braking, steering assist etc.
Developments in digitally controlled mechanical devices are supported by innovations in metamaterials (engineered structures capable of manipulating electromagnetic waves and outperforming traditional circuits). Metamaterials are built on atomic scale from traditional materials in a structured pattern, allowing electromagnetic waves to pass as desired. This would produce significantly smaller and yet highly robust electric circuits boards that will power the vehicles of the future.
High resolution Heads up displays, superimposed with Augmented reality will be great at assisting navigation and discovery, answer calls and messages yet keep eyes glued on the roads. With special applications these displays will show in real time, upcoming obstructions and even speed guns.
However, each new technology and feature added to assist the driver raises questions on whether it would make drivers more negligent and more importantly who is to blame in case of a mishap, the driver or the vehicle. Answers to these questions may delay adoption of some of these technologies, but sooner or later they will find a way into our lives.
The result would be vehicles that are closely in touch with humans via three senses – sound, sight and touch to drives us around, so we can sit back, relax and enjoy the drive.
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