How do Autonomous Cars Work and What Are Their Pros and Cons

How do Autonomous Cars Work and What Are Their Pros and Cons

Autonomous cars used to only be confined to the realm of science fiction. However, they are now a reality and you could be seeing them on a road near you very soon. It is companies such as Tesla, Google, Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, which will make it possible. This article answers the question “How do autonomous cars work?”

As at the time of writing this article, there are no legally operating fully autonomous cars in the United States. However, partially autonomous cars are in existence and have varying amounts of self-automation features like brake and lane assistance and self-driving prototypes.

From minimizing the number of road accidents to easing congestion and ensuring emissions compliance, autonomous cars are set to cure numerous ills in the automotive industry. This has already been seen from different trials conducted in distinct parts of the world.

The theory that autonomous cars use is that machines are better at following rules than humans. For instance, drivers often ignore motorway signs advising them to slow down. This is something that a computer cannot do.

So, How do Autonomous Cars Work?

The way that autonomous cars work is that they combine both software and sensors to help control, drive, and navigate a vehicle. Although features do vary according to the manufacturer, most autonomous cars have the capability to create and maintain an internal map of their surrounding based on a variety of sensors such as radar. For instance, Uber’s self-driving prototypes feature sixty-four laser beams plus other sensors to develop their internal map. On their part, Google’s autonomous prototypes have used radar, lasers, sonar, and high-powered cameras.

The inbuilt software then processes these inputs, plots a path, and sends instructions to the vehicle’s actuators, which control the vehicles steering, acceleration, control, and braking. The car’s ability to follow traffic rules is made possible by hard-coded rules, predictive modeling, obstacle avoidance algorithms, and smart object discrimination.

Partially autonomous cars may require human intervention, but fully autonomous cars may not even come with a steering wheel.

How do Autonomous Cars Know Where They Are and Where to Go?

When designing autonomous vehicles, companies like Uber start by creating a 3D map of a location and equip automobiles with lidar sensors, which measure distances using light pulses. As the company drives the car on local roads, the sensors collect data that is then used to build the map.

When the map of a certain location is complete, the vehicles use it for navigation on their own. The sensors continue helping the car to track the surrounding. The car is eventually able to know where it is in the world.

How do Autonomous Cars Work? – Features Quick Summary

Radar Sensors – Dotted around the car’s monitor to help check the position of nearby vehicles.

Video Cameras – Read road signs, detect traffic lights, and keep track of nearby cars, pedestrians, and other obstacles.

A Central Computer – Analyses data from all sensors to help with acceleration, braking, and steering.

Lidar Sensors – Detect road edges and lane markings.

Ultrasonic Sensors – Detect the position of kerbs and other vehicles when parking.

Autonomous Cars Pros and Cons

The pros and cons of autonomous cars are still largely hypothetical. More research and information is required to help us fully understand their impact on drivers, equity, economy, and the environment.

Autonomous Cars Pros


Auto safety is a huge concern, as thousands of people die in vehicle accidents every year in the United States. Autonomous cars can help reduce that number because machines are said to be less error-prone than humans.

Road Equity

Autonomous cars can help those individuals that are unable to drive themselves like the disabled or the elderly.

Autonomous Cars Cons

Environmental Impact

Autonomous cars could mean accessible, convenient, and affordable transport. This could increase the number of miles driven each year, and if the vehicles are gasoline-powered, emissions could skyrocket. However, if the vehicles are hybrids or fully electrified, then transportations emissions could drop significantly.

Unemployment to Drivers

Autonomous cars could potentially mean unemployment to thousands of people employed as drivers.

Cyber Security

Although autonomous cars may increase road safety, cybersecurity is still a huge concern.

The Bottomline…

We all have those days that entail a lot of rushing around, trying to get things done. You have finally decided what to prepare for dinner, and so you go pedal to the metal when you hit it or it hits you. While your mind was somewhere else, you have got yourself into an accident that could have been avoided.

If you think about it, one of the best ways to prevent such an accident is to pay attention. However, it is usually not that simple. Errors by drivers are some of the most common causes of traffic accidents, and with smartphones, in-car entertainment systems, other essential car accessories, and complicated road systems, it is even harder to concentrate on the road.

It is for these reasons that car manufacturers are developing complex systems that enables cars to drive themselves. Autonomous cars are furthering existing technologies such as pre-safe systems and self-parking. This article has answered one of the most common questions asked – how do autonomous cars work? With this understanding, you will be better placed to make a good choice when purchasing a car with autonomous features.

Advertisment ad adsense adlogger