Technologies Behind Self-Driving Cars - How Autonomous Vehicles Works?

People normally enjoy driving as it gives them a sense of freedom, not to forget status too if one’s behind a nice set of wheels! However, the technological developments over the past decade have led to creation of self-driving cars today, which have increased everyone’s curiosity. These autonomous vehicles (AVs) are proving to be amongst the biggest inventions of the modern-day world. The fact that they require little or absolutely no human input is a huge accomplishment for the science world; and the companies behind them continue to surprise everyone with even better technologies.

These cars can be immensely useful for people who are easily distracted by traffic, music systems, cell phones, etc. How about finishing your presentation on route to the office while your car drives you to your destination! Senior people, people with disabilities and the ones without driving license can benefit immensely from such vehicles too. Here’s some more info on the self-driving cars that will become a commonplace in many parts of the world soon.

Let’s go over some of the technologies that power these autonomous cars.

The Location and Navigation Systems

The Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology is combined together to obtain location-related information like the longitude and latitude of the car, from a satellite. This information along with the road details (provided by digital map database and location systems) results in the creation of the navigation system. Presently, some of the main manufacturers of GPS / Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) include Thaskes Navigation, Leica, Novatel, CSI Wireless and more.

Map Matching and Electronic Maps

Electronic map data covers details like geographical characteristics, signal information, traffic information, road data and more. Currently, the HD maps available are ADAS Level. They’re applied to the Level 2 / Level 3 self-driving.


Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology is used by self-driving cars to create a model of their surroundings, for rendering of accurate geographical data, on a three-dimensional map. LiDAR provides higher resolution than RADAR as it is based on lasers rather than radio waves. It accurately detects, tracks and maps the surroundings of the car, transmitting data literally at the speed of light. However, this technology doesn’t work very well in extreme weather conditions such as in smog, smoke, fog or snow.

In fact, LiDAR sensors are so sharp that they can detect even small-sized objects like a golf ball rolling on the street. They don’t just track the position of the ball, but also its direction and speed, enabling the car to decide whether it should stop or continue moving ahead.


Radio Detection and Ranging (RADAR) technology is used by self-driving cars to supplement their high-resolution sensors during the times when the visibility is low, for instance at night or in a storm. Radar does its work by emitting radio waves which get reflected back to the source and provide distance, speed and direction related information. Even though Radar is pretty accurate in all conditions and doesn’t cost much, it doesn’t provide detailed data on detected objects.

Some of the other notable technologies that power these autonomous vehicles include computer vision, cameras, complementary sensors and neural network accelerators (NNAs).

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