An autonomous vehicle is a vehicle that can move in a desired path on its own accord without any to minimal human intervention. Current autonomous vehicles are classified in a system of five levels, with level one providing basic driver assistance and level five being full autonomy. Levels one and two remain dominant in out current market, with levels three and above having a more marginal share. Autonomous vehicles today typically use one of two systems to navigate their environment. One of these systems is LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and the other being optical object recognition. LIDAR is used to calculate the distance between the car and the objects around it, in a system similar to the echolocation used by a bat. The car can then use this information to navigate the nearby environment. Optical recognition uses a system of cameras to identify objects around it, in a system similar to natural human vision.
Autonomous vehicles have several advantages over manually piloted vehicles. Statistics show that an autonomous vehicle is much safer than an ordinary vehicle, with autonomy removing all chances of human error while driving from the equation. An autonomous car can also maintain a constant speed and brake appropriately, which means that the vehicle has increased mileage and fuel efficiency. Savings on reduced insurance costs, reduced running costs, and parking means the consumer saves large amounts of money. Autonomous vehicles are also expected to provide mobility for seniors and an aging population, who may be unable to drive and would normally need a driver.
Autonomous vehicles are a step towards the Net-Zero Carbon Emission cause and have several environmental benefits. Autonomous cars use significantly less gas and energy when driving, compared to a vehicle driven by a human. Energy is consumed when driving at high speeds, braking, and re-accelerating excessively. Self-driving vehicles cut these factors out with an efficient driving style, meaning less energy is consumed, resulting in less air pollution. An autonomous car has no need for input mechanisms like steering wheels and pedals, which means that space inside the car can be used more efficiently and a greater number of humans can fit per car.