The Future of Driving: Autonomous Cars Renewable Energy

Everybody has heard about how automated cars are going to revolutionize the way we travel in the future. What many don’t realize is how quickly that future is coming to be, and that we are already well on our way as a society to using not only just automated cars, but automated cars that use renewable energy – a safer and less harmful future for both people and the environment.

A Century of Development

While driverless cars may seem like a recent innovation, the ideas propelling the autonomous car movement nowadays can be traced all the way back to the . The first driverless road-legal car took to the roads in 1925, controlled by radio signals from another vehicle following behind it.
The technology nowadays is much more sophisticated and some cars can operate at a fully autonomous level in any situation. The Waymo, a self-driving car created by Google in relative secrecy, debuted in 2009 and was developed by the former director of Stanford AI studies and inventor of Google Street View, Sebastian Thrun. It makes decisions on the road based off microchip programming and a multitude of sensors on the car – in fact, it doesn’t have any pedals or a steering wheel.

What Makes Automation Safer?

The human element in most hypothetical technological advancements is one of the only places in the equation that one cannot be sure of the result. What this means is that humans naturally will make mistakes, minor and major, in any situation, but an automated machine will only do what it is told and, aside from glitches in the programming, do it perfectly.
A person might not realize that the driver in front of them suddenly put on their brakes, but a computer-controlled car would sense this the instant the other driver began to slow down rapidly. A computer does not get tired, while a person can get drowsy on especially long trips.
This is especially relevant to the long-haul trucking and shipping business; whose drivers often are on the roads for dozens of hours at a time with few to no breaks.

Commercialization and Optimization

While driverless cars have been developed for nearly a century now, the recent boom in interest and viability of autonomous cars has opened up the idea to commercialization and implementation.
One company at the forefront of automation in cars is Tesla, run by the enigmatic billionaire Elon Musk who also sits at the head of SpaceX, a private space travel company, and PayPal.
In 2016, Tesla showed a proof-of-concept video showing one of his cars leaving a garage, driving itself, and finding a parking spot – on a functioning roadway with other vehicles, impediments, and pedestrians to test the programming.
Musk has promised a lot for the future of automation, but appears to be falling behind his own extremely optimistic deadlines. Musk said two years ago that self-driving cars would be available in two years, but recently he re-evaluated his deadline, estimating that the cars would in fact be fully ready by 2019.
He said he expects by 2020 that autonomous cars will become “significantly better” than human drivers.
Other traditional car companies have started to take notice of the perks of automated vehicles. Any car that has cruise control is technically a partially autonomous car, and this feature has been around for decades in all brands of cars.
Most major car companies have at least a piece of the pie, but Ford has steadily made strides in automation. According to CNBC, the company said recently that, as opposed to Tesla’s model of electric-only automated cars, they preferred hybrid-powered cars over pure electric engines.
The reasoning for this is simple: electric cars need a long time to charge. They have a downtime while being recharged, but refilling a gas engine to assist an electric engine takes much less time and will result in significantly higher range.
This is a problem that has plagued electric cars since they first became a hot topic, but as the technology continues to improve, at least Ford has decided to push ahead with their automation project while transitioning away from old fuel sources, not embracing new less efficient ones for the short term.

The 5 Levels of Autonomous Cars

The Society of Automotive Engineers, SAE, has a ranking of 5 levels of autonomous cars. Most cars have some form of driver assistance nowadays, but no self-driving car, not even the high-end projects, have reached the highest level of automation: complete self-reliance.

  • 0 – No automation


  • 1 – Driver Assistance: The car has automation over some features, such as speed, steering, but never both. For example, cruise control is a level 1 automation feature.
  • 2 – Partial Automation: Car steers, accelerates, and decelerates on its own. Does not prevent hazards, only ease of use. Basic traffic assistance programs and Tesla Autopilot 2.0 are examples of this level.
  • 3 – Conditional Automation: The car can do just about everything without humans, but must defer to human use when it cannot navigate an area.
  • 4 – High Automation: The car can drive in almost every situation as long as it is programmed for it. For example, some shipping companies have been looking into technology that will allow trucks drive themselves on the highway and connecting roads, but a person may take over for more traffic-heavy situations.

5 – Full Automation: Driverless car in every definition of the word. You can “sleep while you drive” allowing the car to do everything for you. There are no examples of this in existence… yet.

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