Autonomous Takeaways: Self-Driving Vehicles 101

October’s meet-up is a wrap! This month, Chrysler/Fiat Durability Engineer, Dalton Curtis, gave us the know-how of the autonomous Driving industry.

Dalton graciously touched on the facts, criticism and myths that become stigmas of the movement. If you didn’t catch his cutting edge presentation, here’s a round-up of key takeaways:

The Impact


The biggest transition is the role of the human from driver to facilitator and eventually just a passenger all together. The second transition would be the fuel mode from carbon-based fuels to electrically powered motors. Lastly, the goal of these vehicles would be to connect to a symbiotic network in which each learns from the actions and reactions of other vehicle in that network as they traverse the roadways; learning from surrounding objects, GPS, and human habits.


The world of roadways will be completely redesigned with this new technology. With autonomous vehicles, car fleet can be developed on a ride-sharing purpose, roadways will become more structured and regulated, and more walkways and biking paths will be established around the car sharing paths. This new technology will essentially eliminate human error, leaving more room for safety, cost efficiency, and freedom for those inside the vehicle.

The Innovators

Industry Leaders.png

There are two types of industry leaders in the self-driving market, those who are media driven, and those behind-the-scenes.

Frontline innovators like TESLA and UBER are in fact making smaller waves than predicted. Tesla, the California-based technology super group, was the biggest influence in electric vehicles in the mid-2010’s, but has had a slow roll when it comes to successfully implementing self-driving technology. Likewise, Uber has been seen as a cutting edge company in autonomy when in reality, they score low in the industry scale.

Who are the secret leaders?

GM, Waymo, and BMW-Intel-FCA are heads of the game. Intel, specifically, has been developing most of the major technology that will allow these vehicles to become aware of surroundings.

The Technology

  • 3-D cameras to monitor drivers (you should still pay attention a bit, you know)

  • 360 cameras to collect external data surrounding vehicle

  • Short range radar for parking

  • Long range radar for upcoming objects

  • Night vision camera for pedestrians and animals

  • Ultrasonic radar  for location

  • LiDAR for location mapping

LiDAR: Combines laser and radar technology to layout the environment surrounding the vehicle

C-V2X: Vehicle’s relation to other objects. Data collected will be sent to network of neighboring vehicles for better awareness.

Trimble RX: pinpoints objects to 1.5 in. Lets cars drive closer together to improve fuel efficiency and prevent drag.

Common Myths

“Won’t it be expensive?”

In fact, quite the opposite. It is projected that the cost of a fully autonomous electric vehicle will be half the cost per mile of the average vehicle driven today.

“What about the joys of driving?”

With fully autonomous vehicles, more fun can be had. Long commutes can be transformed into work sessions, visiting with passengers can be more personal, and sights on the road can be fully absorbed.

“What about safety?”

Currently, vehicles that are “self-driving” still have the ability to let the driver take the wheel. The 3-D camera facing the interior of the vehicle, the aim is to ensure that drivers are still aware of what is happening, to prevent any unforeseen incident. Likewise, the wide range of sensors helps the car evaluate and “learn” from its surroundings and data collected from other vehicles.