Infographic: How Self-Driving Cars Work

The widespread availability of self-driving cars is moving closer and closer to reality all the time. Major players like Tesla, Google, and Nissan have all confidently declared that they will make fully autonomous models available to the public within the next five years, while ridesharing giant Uber recently rolled out its own self-driving technology on the streets of Pittsburgh. For students pursuing auto mechanic training, these developments could have a massive impact on their future careers, changing the face of the vehicles they work on forever.

So how exactly does a self-driving car work? Auto mechanic college students will probably be familiar with some aspects of the technology, such as collision avoidance systems and GPS, which are already incorporated into many vehicle designs on the market. However, for a car to take full control of itself, with no input from the driver at all, the system must be far more complex, requiring numerous different components, safety provisions, and sophisticated software.

Read on the learn more about some of the key elements of self-driving cars.




How Self-Driving Cars Work

  • LIDAR – Laser Illumination Detection and Ranging Systems allow the car to create a 3D map of its surroundings

Did you know? The roof-mounted system on Google’s self-driving car is spherical to enable a 360ᵒ field of view

  • Radar – Bumper mounted radar units monitor the speed of surrounding vehicles and pedestrians and send signals to the onboard computer to activate collision avoidance and emergency braking systems

Did you know? Self-Driving Cars can determine whether an object is a car, bike, or pedestrian by detecting its speed and shape, and predict its next move by measuring its prior trajectory

  • Front Cameras can be mounted to the windshield to give the computer a view of the road further ahead

Did you know? Uber’s new self-driving cars contain over 20 different cameras in various parts of the vehicle

  • Lane Keeping Assist Systems use a combination of laser and infrared sensors and windshield and rear-view mirror cameras to detect lane markings on the road
  • GPS technology is used by the car’s onboard computer to map a route to its destination

Did You Know? Google’s self-driving software processes data using a special algorithm that learns from previous experiences to account for things like potholes and traffic congestion

  • Manual back-up systems are included in most current self-driving car prototypes to allow passengers to take back control of a car in an emergency
  • Infrared headlamps are used on some self-driving cars to help them function at night or in foggy conditions

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