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A Guide to Electric and Autonomous Vehicles

AC Propulsion Tzero

We live in a period of technological advancement, the likes of which no other period of human invention has ever seen before. We have seen outstanding breakthroughs in surgical neurology, reusable orbital rockets, deep-scan imaging detecting previously lost civilizations, and the invention of electric vehicles too.

But, despite the huge leaps we’ve witnessed in technology, the promise of autonomous vehicles has yet to be realized, though it doesn’t seem far away. Autonomous vehicles, also called self-driving vehicles were first imagined in the 1950s when car manufacturers started noticing the huge advancements in the technological field. This led to them hyping up the future of self-drive vehicles. Unfortunately, so far no one has been able to create a fully working autonomous vehicle that is safe to use on the roads.

However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. Technology is continually advancing, and more and more exciting innovations are happening. From autonomous vehicles to improvements in electric vehicles, we’ve lots to look forward to in the next few years. Keep reading below to find out more about electric and autonomous vehicles:

What is an Electric Vehicle?

An electric vehicle is similar to any other type of vehicle, except instead of using fossil fuels, it uses a battery to propel the powerful electric motor. This not only makes them more economical, but with no emissions, they’re also better for the environment too. And instead of refueling the vehicle at a gas station, you simply plug it in and recharge it at home, or at a public charge point.

Why Are Electric Vehicles So Popular?

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of people buying and using electric vehicles. But why is this? Here are some of the reasons why electric vehicles are so popular:

  • They’re cheaper to run – electricity is much cheaper than diesel or petrol. This means that electric vehicles are much cheaper to run than traditional vehicles. In fact, research suggests that your journey could cost less than 1/3rd of what it would cost in a combustion-engine car. Not only that but there are also tax incentives for people who choose to buy and use an electric vehicle.
  • They’re kinder to the environment – electric vehicles don’t have tailpipes, which means that they emit no emissions. This helps to take care of the environment, and improves air quality, particularly in urban areas.
  • They’re easy to charge – one of the worst things about owning a car is trying to find an open gas station to fuel up at. The good news is that if you purchase an electric vehicle, you can charge it up at home. Not only that, but many states in the US will also give you money to purchase the home charger too.
  • They’re super quiet – another huge benefit of driving an electric vehicle is that they’re incredibly quiet. This makes driving much more relaxing and enjoyable.
  • They offer a more relaxing drive – not only are electric vehicles quiet, but they’re also easy to drive too. This is because electric vehicles produce maximum torque at all revs. Simply put, drivers can reach maximum power without having to rev through the gears. This means that acceleration is instant.
  • They offer health benefits – having evolved in a world where there were very few carbon emissions for thousands of years, it’s probably no big shock that the past couple of centuries have had a huge impact on people’s health. In fact, research has shown that over 7 million people die every year as a result of air pollution. Cars that are powered by fossil fuels, such as petrol and diesel emit nitrous oxide, which is directly linked to respiratory conditions. If fewer of these types of cars are on the road, there won’t be as much nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. This can have an impact on our health.

Different Types of Electric Vehicles

There are currently three main types of electric vehicles:

  • Dual-engine hybrid – these types of vehicles are still powered by a combustion engine. However, the engine is linked to an electric motor. In this type of vehicle, the battery is recharged when the car starts to slow down. This is called regenerative braking.
  • Plug-in hybrid – this type of vehicle is similar to the one listed above. However, the battery in this type of vehicle can be charged by both regenerative brakings and by being plugged into some type of charging socket.
  • 100% electric vehicle – the 100% electric vehicle has an exclusively electric engine and plug-in rechargeable battery. This type of car uses no fossil fuels, so is much better for the environment, and is much cheaper to run too.
Difference Between a Fully Electric and a Hybrid Vehicle

Although fully electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles are fairly similar in nature, there are a few crucial differences between them. Here are some of the differences you should know:

  • A hybrid car isn’t as environmentally friendly as a fully electric vehicle. However, it is more environmentally friendly than a traditional car.
  • Unlike a fully electric vehicle, in a hybrid vehicle, the electric battery is not the main source of power. Instead, the battery in a hybrid vehicle serves as a complement to the petrol engine. It offers an additional level of support.
  • Hybrid vehicles can store the electrical energy they create. However, electric vehicles cannot do this. Instead, they have to be recharged regularly at a power-point.
The Downsides to Owning an Electric Vehicle

There are lots of positives to owning an electric vehicle. However, it’s important to understand the negatives of owning one of these types of cars too. Some of the negatives include:

  • The range – electric cars may need to be recharged numerous times on a long journey. This can be infuriating.
  • They can take a long time to recharge – although electric cars are cheaper to run, they can take a lot longer to recharge than traditional cars. You’ll need to bear this in mind when purchasing a car.
  • The price – electric cars often cost a lot more than traditional cars. However, it’s important to remember that they can save you money in the long run.
  • The options – there are fewer electric vehicles to choose from. However, more and more electric and hybrid vehicles are being released each year.

What Are Autonomous Vehicles?

As we mentioned above, autonomous vehicles are cars that require no human input in driving, other than typing in your destination. This means that instead of concentrating on the roads ahead, passengers in a car (including the driver) will be able to relax and do other things. For example, the driver of the vehicle may choose to answer any important emails while on their commute to work, or they may choose to close their eyes and have a snooze instead.  

How Do Autonomous Vehicles Work?

Although there are no autonomous vehicles on the roads currently, we do have some prototypes from Tesla, Uber, and Waymo that have been running without human intervention. These prototypes use two primary technologies: software and hardware. Without these pieces of technology, these prototypes would not be able to operate. Here’s how each breaks down:

  • Hardware – The hardware involved in autonomous vehicles can include things like sonar, radar, or lidar, as well as the vehicle’s physical onboard computer. Currently, all autonomous vehicle manufacturers use different types of hardware in their vehicles, with Tesla using Lidar and other manufacturers using a combination of sensors.
  • Software – The software used in automating a car’s functions connects a series of sensors that tell the brain of the vehicle to accelerate, brake, and steer the vehicle. The coding, design, and functionality of this software are different for all manufacturers. Autonomous cars also require some basic form of artificial intelligence in order to function safely on the road and to get you to your destination. The AI technology used will have to be advanced enough to navigate traffic patterns, complex terrain, and weather, as well as mitigate the problems caused by human drivers.

As you can see, automated vehicles require a lot of complex technology. You can learn more about automated vehicles by completing an ECE at Kettering Global.

The Different Levels of Autonomous Vehicles

In order to understand where car manufacturers are currently in terms of automation, it’s important to learn the different levels of autonomy. Here are the different levels of autonomy:

  • Level 0 – at this level of autonomy, a driver must constantly brake, accelerate, and steer the vehicle.
  • Level 1 – At level 1, the driver is still in control of the vehicle, but the car includes a number of advanced features that assist the driver such as lane-centering or cruise control. It may also include automatic emergency braking.
  • Level 2 – similar to level 1, at level 2, the driver is still in control of the vehicle. However, unlike level 1, level 2 features both adaptive lane-centering and cruise control and these features can be used at the same time.
  • Level 3 – at level 3, when automated features are operated, the driver is no longer in control of the vehicle. However, in some situations, drivers must control a level 3 automated vehicle. For example, a driver must remain in control of a level 3 automated vehicle in inclement weather or poor conditions that make it unsafe for the vehicle to function.
  • Level 4 – Level 4 automated vehicles may or may not have steering wheels. Drivers of a level 4 car do not have control of the vehicle at all.
  • Level 5 – a level 5 automated vehicle, steers, drives, and brakes all by itself. There is no accelerator, brake, or steering wheel in this type of car. In fact, other than an onboard computer, there are no controls at all. A level 5 car should be able to drive itself anywhere, in any type of weather. It is a fully automated car. However, this type of vehicle does not exist currently.
What is the Purpose of an Autonomous Vehicle?

Most car manufacturers will argue that the purpose of an autonomous vehicle is to give people a more peaceful ride to work. Not only that, but they also state that autonomous vehicles will also be beneficial to businesses too. This is because business owners will be able to ask their employees to work while on their commute to work.

Will Autonomous Vehicles be Safe?

A significant proportion of car manufacturers believe that autonomous vehicles will turn out to be much safer than vehicles that are controlled by humans. This is because autonomous vehicles are much more likely to follow the speed limits and the rules of the road. This means that they are much less likely to cause or be involved in an accident. However, at this present time, this cannot be proved. There is currently not enough data from real-world situations with large numbers of self-drive vehicles on the road.

Can I Buy an Autonomous Vehicle?

At present, it is not possible to buy an autonomous vehicle, despite many articles stating that they will be released very shortly. However, the future looks bright for self-drive vehicles, and we expect consumers to be able to purchase them within the next five years. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of brilliant inventions in the automotive industry. One of them being the invention of the electric car.  Electric cars are amazing for many reasons. Not only do they have a positive impact on the environment, but they can also benefit your health too.

And the good news is that we’re likely to see many more innovations in the automotive industry over the next few years, with autonomous vehicles expected to be in mainstream operation by the year 2025. In the past, many people believed that autonomous vehicles wouldn’t become a reality. However, this is no longer the view of many car manufactures. In fact, in many of their eyes, self-drive technology has gone from “maybe possible” to “definitely possible”. Let’s hope this dream is realized soon so that we can start relaxing on our journey to and from work.

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