Although we are yet to see fully automated, driverless cars driving themselves around everywhere, automation in its early form has already made its way into most high-tier vehicles released in the last two years. If that intrigues you, rest assured that we will elaborate on that and much more, as we take a look at where automation in vehicles stands now.
1. Understanding the Levels of Autonomous Features: You May Have a Few in Your Car Already
In total, there are five levels of autonomous features for self-driving cars, and the last one is theoretical at this time. Once we go through the five levels of autonomous driving/assistive features, you will likely realize that your new car may have a few of the Level 1, 2, or even three features in it already!
2. Level 1 Autonomous Features
- Adaptive cruise control
- Assistive steering control
- Presence of a human driver is essential for everything else
3. Level 2 Autonomous Features
4. Level 3 Autonomous Features
- Quite similar to Level 2 autonomous vehicles and has all the features mentioned above
- Environmental awareness & detection capabilities allow for taking intelligent decisions, when on auto mode
5. Level 4 Autonomous Features
- The closest we have come to fully driverless cars
- Human driving input is only required in unmapped areas or while traversing rugged terrains
6. Level 5 Autonomous Features
The AI can drive the car safely across all terrains and weather conditions
A human driver is unnecessary
There are no level 5 self-sufficient vehicles on record yet
For those wondering, there is often a mention of Level 0 autonomous vehicles as well. Still, it’s essentially a term that’s used to designate vehicles with zero autonomous capabilities, and therefore, was not elaborated on in here.
7. There are Tremendous Career Prospects for Automotive Engineers
The normal payroll of a self-driving car engineer was $295,000 in 2017, while the average salary of a general automotive engineer is only $76,513. The stark difference between the two related but quite different fields of work is largely due to the following facts.
- There aren’t enough qualified engineers available for autonomous car projects
- All the top car manufacturers are looking for them
- The future of the car industry is going to be dependent on self-driven cars
- The race to get there first and take the first mover’s advantage is on
Right now, an ECE-Advanced Mobility oriented electrical and computer engineering master’s degree is one of the most lucrative courses for engineers because of this surging demand. It merges the two fields perfectly and specializes in robotics, dynamic system design, and app development for current-gen and next-gen autonomous vehicles. As more self-governing cars make it onto the road throughout the next decade, the need for driverless car engineers will increase exponentially as well.
8. Will We be Able to Afford One?
Initially, as it is with any new piece of technology, Level 5 self-driving cars might be too costly for most of us. Therefore, the answer mostly depends on who you are and what you earn! Speaking from a general point of view, though, Level 3 and even Level 4 autonomous vehicles will become more affordable by the next decade. Elon Musk (Tesla) thinks that even Level 5 vehicles will become accessible by the year 2040.
9. Level 5 Self-Driving Vehicles Might be Seen Sooner in the Industrial Sector
The main reason fully automated vehicles are not being seen on the road is due to the safety hazards. Not all driver, passenger, driver, and pedestrian safety dynamics have yet been calculated and corrected, which is why even Level 4 cars are not easily found on the road, if at all.
On the other hand, off-road, industrial vehicles such as load trucks, mining equipment, etc., must not suffer as much about all that. In the same way that Australian mining companies currently use uncrewed, autonomous trucks, as well as other equipment for mining operations, we too may see the same being implemented with better results, much sooner than mainstream, on-road vehicles.
10. How Are Safe Self-Driving Cars in 2019 – 2020?
This is the central question for many people. The answer is also the reason why full automated self-driven cars are not yet a reality – however. As of now, vehicles with driving assistance, limited automation, and emergency controls make any car a lot safer, but that’s where the line is drawn.
The accident rate of self-driven cars is significantly higher than those of human-driven ones. This is compounded by the fact that autonomous vehicles have had so little exposure to unsafe conditions.
Tesla, in particular, has been the cause of accidents and even deaths caused by self-driven cars. Tesla AV has been officially related to six ends, with four of them being drivers and two being pedestrians. It’s safe to say that the next time you see a driverless car going about its business, it’s best not to test its emergency breaks, especially if it’s a Tesla!
In all fairness, that is precisely why autonomous car engineers, app developers, AI developers, etc., are paid so well in this developing industry. Manufacturers need more fresh minds at the job to iron out those kinks because unless they do, the dream of driverless cars being mainstream cannot be realized.
Self-driving cars are not just going to be innovations that will change human history forever; they will also change the automotive business itself. Additionally, related, dependent businesses will also branch out from the new industry.
It will create jobs in multiple associated sectors and boost the economy in the process. If you have ever considered automotive/computer/electrical engineering as a career path, ensure that your education prepares you to become a part of this upcoming and inevitable automotive revolution. The fact that it’s still in development makes it the ideal career path to consider.