SELF DRIVING VEHICLES : simplified version explained



The objective of this article is to make you familiar with autonomous vehicles with its basic working functionalities.

self-driving cars are the natural extension of active safety and obviously something we should do ” — elon musk

Let’s understand how things are :

we already have pioneered organizations coming straight out of from the silicon valley for autonomous car development like Tesla , Uber, Waymo (waymo is google project).

TESLA : fully autonomous self-driving car testing.

UBER : Uber’s self-Driving Car

WAYMO : fully self-driving car

And lots of classical giant automaker companies like:

Mercedes, Toyota, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen and now Nissan is also geared up for this ultimate mission.

Nissan plans to launch its own self-driving taxi service in Japan

“ The latest auto giant to take on Uber ” — the verge

Google is working on self-driving cars, and they seem to work. People are so bad at driving cars that computers don’t have to be that good to be much better.” — Marc Andreessen

Let’s go slightly deep into its working mechanism :

Basic structure of sights in any car has :

  • Front view: to see its front view.
  • Rear view: to see their back
  • Right & left view: to see whats happening on their respective sides.

Now let’s list down broadly, what all stuff (hardware or inputs) are typically used by above autonomous development companies to build self-driving cars:

Video Cameras : [front, rear & sides cameras ] which is to see what is there in their respective views.

LIDAR : [ LIght Detection And Ranging is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth.]

Basically, its sends out beams of light and tries to sense 3-D geometry around the car. If there is a pedestrian walking nearby it can easily detect much more efficiently. Its literally gives you 3D map of everything around the car.

GPS : [Global Positioning System] which tells you where you’re exactly by calculating your latitude and longitude.

Ultrasonic sensors : are typically used to see things which are very close to the vehicle.

RADAR : [ RAdio Detection And Ranging is an object-detection system that uses radio waves to determine the range, angle, or velocity of objects.]we have radar sensors installed at the front and rear to detect how far are other vehicles in front and side of you and how far are vehicles behind you.


the vehicles will be fully self-driving. so you have your own personal space where you can sit back and relax.” — John Krafcik

Lot of premium cars already have these sensors like radar, GPS and ultrasonic but the most important aspect of self-driving car is camera and lidar because cameras helps us see the front, rear and sides of the car and lidar gives us the three dimension geometry around car.

Cost wise: lidar is more expensive while radar, gps and ultrasonic are cheaper but cameras are cheapest among all because of explosion of cameras in mobile phones.

In other words, all the above inputs are sensors which are providing inputs and we can say all are sensory inputs.

Central Computer :

All of our sensory inputs then go to a computing box which resides under the car carpet and now what the computer has to do to make a truly self driving car is to generate multiple outputs.

There are multiple outputs :

  • steering angle : because we have a steering wheel, it needs to control the steering wheel and understand at what angle it should place the steering wheel at every point of time.
  • braking : how much braking it should apply.
  • acceleration / gas pedal (in US) : how much force you should put on the acceleration system.

Here, I’m assuming that we have automatic transmission and not manual transmission, because in a manual transmission system we need to work with clutch and gears.

In an automatic transmission system, the clutch and the gear system is automated for us. so, assuming automatic transmission system is there and above three points (steering angle, braking and accelerators) are the key outputs.

Off course there are other outputs too like :

  • wipers : if its raining would you want to switch on your wipers.
  • signals / indicators : if you want to turn right, you need to give right indicator.

There are other stuffs like this but the three most important stuff for your car to actually drive would be : steering angle, braking and acceleration.

In a nutshell, we have sensory inputs the computer takes all these sensory inputs and its generates outputs especially these three (steering angle, braking and acceleration) for the car to be truly autonomous.

and off course, when we are generating these outputs we have to be extremely careful for below things:

  • > we’re following traffic rules of the respective countries.
  • > we should avoid collision of all sorts.
  • > follow basic common sensical stuffs about driving a car.

Source: Deep Learning on Medium