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How Self-Driving Cars Work? Autonomy, Dangers & More Explained

self driving car 1

How Self-Driving Cars Work? Autonomy, Dangers & More Explained

In recent years, self-driving cars have quickly become one of the most talked about advancements in the automotive world. The idea of vehicles being able to autonomously drive and navigate traffic without any human input has been a science fiction fantasy for decades. However, with the recent burst of research, improvement and development, this fantasy is becoming a reality.

In this article, we’ll cover all the ways self-driving cars work, from the hardware, sensors, and cameras they use, to their varying levels of autonomy and the dangers associated with them. We’ll also look at what the future holds for the auto industry and where self-driving cars are going. So, let’s dive right in!

What Is a Self-Driving Car?

To put it simply, a self-driving car is any vehicle that is able to detect its environment and navigate the roads without any human input. This means that these cars can identify, localize, and plan a safe path through traffic using complex onboard systems and sensors.

Self-driving cars rely heavily on information collected from the world around them, meaning they will constantly interpret data on traffic lights, road markings, signs, pedestrians, and other cars. All of this information is then used by the car’s computer to make decisions regarding when to accelerate, brake and turn.


At their core, self-driving cars rely on powerful processors, sensors and cameras to ensure they can safely navigate the world around them. The most important piece of hardware is generally a central computer, which will use information from the various sensors and cameras to interpret the data needed in order to successfully navigate the terrain.

The computers generally need to be very powerful, containing multiple cores and vast amounts of RAM. These allow for the processors and algorithms to interpret vast amounts of data quickly and accurately.

Then, there are the various sensors and cameras, which will be spread around the car in order to build up a detailed picture of the world around it. The types and numbers of sensors and cameras will vary from car to car, depending on their purposes, with some vehicles having more advanced systems than others.

Sensors & Cameras

The sensors and cameras used by self-driving cars generally fall into three categories: lidar, radar, and cameras.

Lidar sensors use lasers to measure distances and build up a 3D map of the environment around the car. This allows the car to detect obstacles and plan a safe route accordingly.

Radar sensors are used to detect objects which are further away, such as oncoming traffic. They send out waves which bounce off any nearby objects and return back to the sensor, allowing it to determine the positions of these objects.

Finally, cameras are used to collect high resolution images which can be used to detect objects more accurately. This can be particularly useful for detecting pedestrians and other cyclists.

Levels of Autonomy

Autonomous driving is generally classified into five distinct levels. These range from full autonomy with no human interaction required, to level one, which is still based on driver assistance but can require driver input.

Level one autonomy typically involves basic features such as cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane keeping. Level two incorporates more features, such as adaptive cruise control, which can adjust speeds according to the flow of traffic.

Level three encompasses fully autonomous driving, meaning the car can control acceleration, braking and steering without any manual intervention. At this point, the car is capable of navigating through most situations autonomously, including crossroads and roundabouts.

Level four and level five represent complete autonomy, but the difference between the two lies in the degree of control the car has over its passengers. Level four cars are able to make decisions based on predefined goals, while level five cars will be able to take into account a wider range of variables.

Future Implications & Dangers

The development of self-driving cars brings with it a range of implications for the automotive industry, with more efficient navigation and fewer traffic accidents predicted for the future. However, the technology also poses risks, including potential privacy issues, security breaches and unexpected glitches.

At present, the industry is working hard to ensure these potential dangers are avoided, but with the technology only in its early stages, it remains to be seen how successful this will be.


Self-driving cars are vehicles that detect their environment and navigate roads without any human input. They rely on hardware such as powerful computers, sensors, and cameras. These pieces of tech are used to build up a detailed picture of the world, allowing the car to make decisions on when to accelerate, brake and turn. Self-driving cars have different levels of autonomy and have the potential to greatly reduce traffic accidents. Although the technology is in its infancy and comes with certain risks such as security breaches, it is an exciting and revolutionary development in the world of automobiles.

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