Self-Driving Cars

By: Victoria Nida


Self-driving cars are cars that can drive without the help of humans. There are cars now with some self-driving factors like parallel parking or warning you when an object is behind you when backing up. However, they are not fully autonomous just yet, engineers are working to get to that point. There are older companies like Nissan, but also newer ones such as Tesla, Google, and Waymo. Google uses LIDAR for their car and Tesla has autopilot. Since they are not fully ready in many places not many people have them yet.


As I said in the introduction, Tesla is based on autopilot. This means that no human is required to provide input. They could just sit in the back of the car if they really wanted to. With autopilot the car is capable of switching lanes, parking close to your destination, getting on and off highways, or just simply keeping between lanes. These cars have eight different cameras to see a complete 360 degree view that cannot be seen by humans. It can operate beyond what a human can do, they say “it’s at least twice as good as the average human driver”. (Tesla inc., 2017). The processing power is more than forty times that of the last generation.

How It Works

This self-driving technology is able to sense everything around the car and up to two football fields away. There are three components of self-driving, sensors, connectivity, and software/ control algorithms. These things come together to help the car drive by itself. They compare it to a human because a human sees or hears, thinks what to do and takes action. However, this is smarter because it doesn’t make mistakes.



LIDAR is the sensor part of the system that deals with perception, so basically it will take over a human’s sight and hearing. It stands for Light Detection and Ranging and it is used in self-driving cars. It is a laser that scans the surface while driving. So it’s basically like a radar that uses light instead of radio waves. “By measuring the travel time and location of the reflected laser light, it can discriminate the shape and location of surrounding objects”. (Tim Menke, August 28, 2017).


The computer part works as a brain, it controls the thoughts and movements. This deals with the connectivity part it updates weather, traffic, and road conditions. When you begin your road trip you can just put in your address and the computer will work as a GPS system. They are in the process of assembling a map of every single street and road in the world.   All the information is sent to the computer so it can decide what to do with it. It was made to operate just like a human brain with neurons. “These algorithms can learn from the actions taken in previous situations and infer what to do in a new similar situation”. (Tim Menke, 2017).


The controls are how it reacts to the information. So if a person runs out in the road it is able to detect that and stop the car. Or if there’s road construction ahead and moving to one lane it sees that and decides if it should slow down or move to the lane. So this is used in place of a human’s hands and feet. It receives commands to control the steering wheel and brakes.

Human Error

According to WAYMO, there were 1.25 million deaths in the world due to vehicle crashes in 2014. A huge majority was due to human choice such as alcohol being the leading cause and speeding coming in a close second. “The high-tech vision system has the potential to outperform humans in detecting dangerous situations”. (Tim Menke, 2017). The advantages of this car are less fuel will be needed, getting faster to your destination, and being more proficient. Humans are able to spend their time on other things while driving like being on the phone, doing homework, or napping.


I think we will see a lot of self-driving cars within a decade. I do believe they are safer because they drive the speed limit, are more aware than humans, and use a high-tech program. It will decrease drinking and driving and speeding. In case of an accident the company should definitely pay for it, it’s no one else’s fault. I hope that these cars never do make mistakes because people put a lot of trust in them when they’re driving it. I talked to someone who worked with Tesla and he said “these are the most trustworthy and smart cars out there”. They supposedly are smarter than humans and these are the best cars out there. It seems to be the perfect car because it obeys the rules of the road and with these cars you’ll never get into and accident or get pulled over.




McKinsey & Company. (2017). Self-driving car technology: When will the robots hit the road?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Nov. 2017].

Science in the News. (2017). Self-driving Cars: The technology, risks and possibilities – Science in the News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Nov. 2017].

“Technology – Waymo.” Waymo, (2017). Autopilot. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Nov. 2017].

“The Science of Self-Driving Cars.” The Franklin Institute, 10 Aug. 2016,


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