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Talk of autonomous cars has been prevalent for years and, despite safety concerns that come with this brand of automotive technology, their development is farther ahead of schedule than originally anticipated. Two forms of technology – LiDAR and V2V communication – have the largest influences on the autonomous functionality and are big determinants in the future of this innovative brand of automotive technology

LiDAR is an abbreviation for light detection and ranging. This particular market is expected to be worth $5.2 billion by 2022, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.8 percent over the next five years. LiDAR is used in autonomous cars to create fast, precise 3D images of the vehicle’s surroundings and is the most efficient and accurate method of its kind.

Described as “super eyes” for the driverless car, LiDAR sensors have an extremely far range and can determine the location of every object around a vehicle faster than a human or any other form of technology.

However, a drawback for LiDAR is cost, with units being sold from leading manufacturers like Velodyne for up to $75,000 each. Since 2016, however, LiDAR manufacturers began promising more consumer-friendly unit prices hovering around the $250 range, which should result in LiDAR becoming incorporated into a broader number of both semi- and fully autonomous cars. Even then, manufacturers might have to further reduce their prices at the wholesale level if they want to see automotive manufacturers begin installing them in every vehicle.

(AP Photo)

The other technology worth noting is vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, an innovation that has seen similar uses in aerospace manufacturing in the past few decades.

Considered one of the safest inventions since the seatbelt, V2V communication enables cars to relay information back and forth to alert each other of potential hazards and incidents before the car’s driver even sees it coming.

Future system models are even reported to exchange data such as braking, speed and directional information to other V2V-enabled cars. In addition to alerting the vehicle’s driver of any upcoming hazards or roadway conditions, this communicative system also will help resolve potential traffic-related incidents and obstructions before they have a chance to unravel. Specifically, this would allow drivers to adjust their actions accordingly with plenty of time beforehand.

Because traffic fatalities have increased steadily in the United States since 2014, it’s prompting many companies to expand their research and development of V2V technology. And, although V2V is still in its infancy, it's possible that this communicative form of technology could be mandated to install in all vehicles by 2023.

Associate Editor, Wireless Design & Development
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