For decades and decades, perhaps even since the first automobiles were beginning to be sold, consumers across the world have been looking for ways to make the process of driving easier for them to learn and master. In much the same way that pilots have been looking forward to some kind of autopilot technology being developed, the general public has been looking forward to the same sort of device being developed for cars and trucks. Unfortunately, this kind of technology has remained in the realm of science fiction, the sort of thing you could see on the Jetsons and dream about your descendents owning. In recent years, this has changed however. Over the last decade, there has been an incredible amount of progress made in the development of the kind of technology that would allow car companies to design and produce motor vehicles that could essentially drive themselves.
A truly autonomous vehicle, also known as a self driving car, is a motor vehicle that is capable of not only navigating and moving through its environment without crashing, but also doing these things while simultaneously following the traffic laws in the area around them. In order for a car or truck to be able to operate with little or no human input throughout the process, it must be equipped with a variety of advanced sensory technology. This can include devices using radar, Lidar, sonar, GPS, and even odometry (motion sensors that track movement). But even those advanced sensory technologies may not be enough to allow a vehicle to be truly self driving, as there are road signs that must be read and other little things that while are simple for a human to process, are hard to train a machine to recognize.
The first truly self driving car was developed in the late 1970s in Japan, capable of reaching up to thirty miles per hour with the use of an elevated rail. However, when people think about a self driving car, they are picturing it driving on a normal street or highway, not a specially designed track. And while there has been an incredible amount of progress made in developing cars that require less and less input from a driver, we have yet to see the development and production of a completely self driving car from any major car company. Except for one, a company called Waymo, which is one of Google’s plethora of subsidiaries. Waymo has developed a self driving car capable of operating for hundreds of thousands of miles without any input from a human driver, and has been the first company to offer a taxi service operating with self driving cars. Self driving trucks have been at the forefront of this technological development for several decades now, as many companies who ship large amounts of product in truck convoys have been looking for ways to eliminate the need for drivers. They have had trucks capable of driving themselves, albeit by being programmed to follow one truck in the front with a human driver, for more than a decade now.