The Autonomous Car, Can Electronic Systems Defeat Human Error?

The Autonomous Car, Can Electronic Systems Defeat Human Error?

Though it seems like something totally unbelievable, a car that can take you where you want to go without your ever having to do anything more than tell it where to go, this “car of tomorrow” is already starting to become a reality.  Many major automotive companies are now offering cars with “driver assistance” as standard equipment.  These “cars of today” can help you with braking if they feel that you are closing on another vehicle too quickly, they can gently help keep you in your lane if you stray, let you see camera views from all aspects of your car, detect and alert you to other vehicles that are in your “blind spot”, and they can even “parallel park” for you!  The cars still don’t take full charge of your trip, only alert and help you on your way.

It has been long known that the largest cause of accidents today are the results of poor decisions, responses, and actions by the driver.  These actions can be based on the driver being under the influence of mind/decision altering substances. The most common cause of accidents today is the “distracted driver” not giving his full attention to driving for any number of reasons (fatigue, talking or distracted by passengers, eyes not on the road, use of electronic messaging devices, etc.).  The development of the autonomous car has been moved to the forefront in order to have the driving decisions made by a logical algorithm performed by a computer aided by information provided by multiple sensors, trying to remove the “human factor” from the driving process.  In theory, this will make accidents less frequent.

Based on what I’ve already mentioned, you can imagine that the autonomous car will need to have many excellent sensors.  The emerging big players in sensors are LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) and RADAR (RAdio Detection And Ranging).  LiDAR involves using laser light “bounce back” in the painting of a map of the immediate area with very accurate measurement of “detail” of the features.  This three-dimensional accuracy of sensing/mapping of the immediate surroundings has almost all of the autonomous car manufacturers (Google, Uber, Toyota) leaning toward LiDAR as their primary sensing system.  The only problems with LiDAR are that it isn’t very accurate at longer distances and that it loses performance in dark, snow, rain, fog, and dusty conditions.  This shortcoming creates the need for other cameras and ultrasonic sensors as “necessary secondary sensing supplements” in the cars using it as a primary sensing system.

RADAR works almost exactly like LiDAR, except that it uses radio waves instead of light waves that are “bounced back” to the sensor in its sensing of objects.  RADAR is very efficient over longer distances than LiDAR and has largely been used in the military.  Currently, only Tesla is using RADAR for its primary sensing system.  RADAR is much more accurate than LiDAR for seeing through dark, snow, rain, fog, and dusty conditions.  It is also more accurate than LiDAR regarding determining speed of nearby objects, hence its popularity in traffic speed policing.  It is less angularly accurate than LiDAR and can become confused as to the size of nearby objects.  Tesla’s response to this problem is using eight cameras and twelve ultrasonic sensors in addition to its upgraded on-board computing system.  Ultimately, there is a strong likelihood that there will be a series of both types of sensors(RADAR and LiDAR) employed, short range, medium range, and long range, as no one system seems to have all of the necessary answers.  UPS has been using Autonomous Trucks since May 2019 in Arizona, though there is a “safety driver” and “on -board engineer” present at all times.

The above-mentioned sensors work only for mapping the immediate area of the vehicle.  Add to this the requirement of an excellent GPS (Global Positioning System) through GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) for vehicle position information, the development of AI (Artificial Intelligence) to try to predict the unpredictable changes, whether they be pedestrians, drivers, distracted drivers, inclement weather, and other fast-developing situations and direct the vehicle to make the necessary corrections to adapt to these conditions.  It is amazing just how much information must be processed and integrated to result in a safe outcome.  A robust on-board computer will certainly be necessary to monitor all of the systems above AND issues concerning the vehicle’s other systems; mechanical, environmental, safety, and entertainment.

Suffice it to say that with all of the added radiation of different forms being emitted and received by the autonomous cars, extensive testing will be required to make sure that the EMI and RF emissions of these cars don’t interfere with the other vehicles on the road and what shielding will be required for the cabin of the car to prevent excessive RF and EMI exposure to the occupants.  Shielding will have to attenuate a wider range of frequencies than ever before.  There will also be the usual intense pressure to minimize weight, space, and cost of the shielding components.  The big shielding players will be Silver, Silver plated Copper, Silver plated Aluminum, and Silver plated Nickel, likely filling a conductive elastomer to seal gaps.  EMI, EMC, and Signal Performance Testing will all be vital to make sure that all of the vehicle’s systems work well together.  System Level Testing of these cars will require a large testing facility to perform these tests due to their size.  The cost of taking the vehicle to an off-site testing facility is high, and the lead time for the testing appointment is substantial.  It might well be a cost effective decision to order a portable RF EMI Shielded Testing Enclosure to do pre-compliance testing, GPS testing, Debugging, and Failure Mitigation steps along with performance testing on your own timeframe, saving both time and money in the process.

We here at V Technical Textiles, Inc., are already considering and looking forward to the EMI/RFI testing and shielding challenges the autonomous vehicle will present.  Call us today for information about our testing enclosures.  Our greatest strength is our flexibility with our metalized fabric enclosures being lightweight, portable, and providing unparalleled performance.  Our greatest reward is building a custom-made product with the help of our customer’s input that  meets their specific testing needs!

V Technical Textiles, Inc.     4502 Route 31, Palmyra, New York  14522       (315-597-1674 Phone       (315)-597-6687 FAX

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