You’ve heard of autonomous driving and if you’re lucky enough you probably own a car with loads of automated assistance systems, right now. But when would autonomous or self driving become a reality? The big manufacturers are expecting to kick off initial models by end of this year with production models going out by 2021., according to multiple press sources and internal information from manufacturers.
There are five levels of autonomous driving from basic driving aids, partial assistance systems to fully automated driving. Most premium cars unveiled from 2018 until end of 2019 already have level 1 through level 3 automation. Now, the car companies are looking to go up to level 4 and level 5, a bit later. As of today, there are several models from premium makes with the capability of self-parking. In the near future, cars can even find parking spots on autopilot.
Let’s break down the five levels of automation. With level 1, small steering or acceleration tasks are performed by the car without human intervention, but everything else is fully under human control. Level 2 is a semi-autopilot-typed system, the car can automatically take safety actions but the driver needs to stay alert at the wheel. Third level automation features more advanced assistance systems to aid overall safety. Moving to level 4 and 5, the vehicle has evolved to a level where it could drive itself almost all the time or even allow the driver to sleep in. Level 5 is full automation in all conditions; you’d get the picture.
Car parks itself by 2021
Self-parking has been around since the early 90s when the initial cars were tested by major manufacturers. Until today, only certain premium makes and models have instilled self-parking capability as part of the driver assistance system suite. There two types of parking, perpendicular and parallel. When it comes to parallel parking, most people would have a difficult time, especially in the city. Imagine squeezing your car into a tiny space, that’s never an easy task. Often times, you’d encounter a car in front trying to park but it took longer than expected, what do you do? Most would actually start to honk or swear bad words on how awful the other driver who tried to park…but what if you’re in the same situation? A problem with parking causes unnecessary traffic congestions, frazzled nerves and bent fenders. This is where technology comes through for all of us, with self-parking function.
Imagine finding the perfect parking spot, but instead of struggling to maneuver your car back and forth, you simply press a button, sit back and relax. The same technology used in self-parking cars can be used for collision avoidance systems and ultimately, self-driving cars. Furthermore, self-parking cars help to solve some of the parking and traffic problems in very populated vicinities. Sometimes parking a car in a space is restricted by the driver's skill at parallel parking. This is when a self-parking car assists a whole lot, it literally calculates and takes the necessary course of action to fit into the designated spot.
Self-parking cars currently on the market are not completely autonomous, but they do make parallel parking and life much easier. The driver still regulates the speed of the vehicle by pressing and releasing the brake pedal. The car's idle speed is enough to move it into the parking space without pressing the accelerator. Once the automated parking starts, the car’s steering works itself by moving forward into position beside the front car. The car’s indicator is turned on and as soon as the Reserve mode is engaged and brakes released, the car would start to back up. After that, sit back and let the car turn and slot into the parking space, flawlessly. However, when the car has backed far enough into the space, another indicator would come on to let the driver know that he should stop and shift the car into D mode. The car pulls forward as the wheels adjust to maneuver it into the space and fit the car in the designated parking spot. And that’s it, it's done!
The mechanics of self-parking
Self-parking is self-explanatory, but the process itself depends on sensors installed around the car. Different self-parking systems have different ways of sensing the objects around the car. Sensors are normally placed on the front and rear bumpers which act as both transmitters and receivers. These sensors transmit signals, which bounce off objects around the car and reflect back to them. The car's on-board CPU then uses the amount of time that it takes those signals to return to calculate the location of the objects. It then attempts to park the car.
Apart from sensors, which is generally less sophisticated, there’s the camera system, which uses radar to detect objects or other cars. The cameras, mounted front and rear of the car, detect other parked cars or objects, size of the parking space and distance. It then steers itself into the space steadily and flawlessly, with the least driver intervention.