FUNDAMENTALS OF AUTONOMOUS TECHNOLOGY
Driving automation operates thanks to the interaction of several systems that enable the vehicle to understand the driving environment, make intelligent decisions, and navigate safely to a destination:
- Localization and Mapping determines where the vehicle is located within its environment. This requires building a specialized map of the surrounding environment, either from scratch or by drawing from a baseline of prior knowledge that is well-understood and trusted to be mostly correct, and then localizing the vehicle within that map. This system helps a vehicle correctly interpret the data its sensors gather.
- Perception combines information from the Mapping and Positioning system with data from vehicle sensors – including cameras, LIDAR, RADAR, global positioning systems (GPS), and inertial navigation units (INU), among other inputs – to collect and interpret information about the vehicle’s current situation and its relationship to its environment. This includes the location and movement of the full range of obstacles, both static and dynamic, including infrastructure, vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, and more. The amount and complexity of data for analysis makes this one of the most challenging steps in automated driving.
- Prediction helps the vehicle imagine where other vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, etc. are likely to be in the future. Often there are multiple possible predictions (known as hypotheses).
- Planning determines one or more safe courses of travel for the vehicle, including decisions such as which lane to travel, where to position the vehicle relative to other dynamic objects, and how much space to afford obstacles. Critically, the Planning system must make decisions about how to safely guide the vehicle under conditions of uncertainty, such as when other vehicles on the road may be blocked from view, or if they behave in unexpected ways. Multiple hypotheses may lead to multiple possible plans, with the ultimate choice depending on the actions of other vehicles, pedestrians, and more.
- Control executes the planned driving trajectories set by the planning system, which are updated constantly based on new information. This is accomplished using actuators that direct vehicle drive functions.
- Coordination communicates with other vehicles, the road infrastructure, and cloud databases.
- External Human Machine Interaction (e-HMI) manages the communication of information between the vehicle and humans in the traffic environment. Importantly, while communication between driver and vehicle is obviously important, particularly in managing the handoff of control, so too is communication between the vehicle and humans outside the vehicle, such as drivers and pedestrians.