This is a synthesis blog for Dylan Hong's semester. It covers all topics he has blogged about and some of what his final project worked on.
Tesla set out to create the safest semi-truck you can buy. To accomplish this goal, every truck Tesla sells will have advanced autopilot as a standard. This includes features such as emergency breaking, automatic lane keeping, and forward collision warnings. The technology to accomplish this level of autonomy and safety, the Tesla semi uses the same hardware suite from the Model S, 3, and X. This means there will be 8 cameras, 1 radar, and ultrasonic sensors scattered all around the body. Additionally, the raw data from most of these cameras will be accessible to the driver, something that can’t be done from Tesla’s passenger cars. This is to allow the truck drivers a 360 degree view of their surroundings and eliminate blindspots. Elon Musk also mentioned convoy technology that will be implemented with the trucks. This will use the autonomous technology to have Tesla semi trucks follow each other for maximum aerodynamic efficiency.
The most problematic use case for AVs to interact with manual cars is in cities, and the most problematic situation within cities is the intersection. Priority signals are already being used to expedite rapid transit, and the same idea can be applied to self-driving cars. Because AVs have the capability to move faster and still operate safely, as well as to communicate with other vehicles and the infrastructure around them to synchronize movements, priority signals can minimize the number of conflicts between AVs and the rest of vehicles and also help reduce traffic.
Highway driving is an already established use case for autonomous driving. The full benefits, however, can only be attained when the interference of manual-driven cars are removed from the scenario. Dedicating an AV lane on highways would be a cost-effective measure to modify infrastructure to cope with the transition period to full autonomy, as well as provide much-needed improvements in traffic.
Highway driving is a very constrained use case, which has allowed successful testing of autonomous technologies such as Tesla's Autopilot with little problem. But, cities pose unique challenges for AVs to cope with, and one of the largest challenge is the permanent presence of pedestrians. Safety of everyone should obviously be paramount, but just where the compromise lies between pedestrian and AV-rider convenience within cities is still to be determined.