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29 April 2022

How do autonomous cars work?

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Today we have self-driving cars that don’t need a person to steer them for them to drive. Discover how these vehicles work in the article below.

The evolution of the automotive world never seems to end—it always has something new, a change or a modification to be made to its various moving parts that always keeps it at the forefront of technology. Something that might have seemed unthinkable a few years ago are self-driving cars, which have now become a reality.

These are a transformation of the cars we see in our everyday lives and can drive without needing a driver to be physically present. The current technological age and the intrinsic interconnectedness of the various devices that make up a car means that these vehicles are able to drive on their own.

This technological evolution has come about, in particular, thanks to the momentum of electric vehicles; the connected nature of their components and elements makes them more adaptable to new technology that’s capable of integrating the artificial intelligence required for self-driving operation. Thus, the very mechanics of cars themselves have changed to face the new, more electronic-centric era we're heading towards.


If we take a closer look at this idea, we find that it isn’t all that distant of a concept from a historical perspective. The first conceptualization arose in 1926 when an American company developed a system to control a car using a radio. Logically, it wasn’t a massive success and further research into the idea wasn’t completed. Some years later, another electric vehicle was unveiled at the 1936 New York World's Fair, which was controlled by an electrical circuit that had been embedded in the road itself.

The concept seems somewhat unthinkable today, in large part thanks to the development of the wireless connectivity we’re so accustomed to. In the present day, over the past ten years many brands have taken to developing these kinds of connected vehicles.

How does this type of vehicle work?

These cars can drive on their own thanks to their ability to identify their own surroundings, which allows them to drive and detect any obstacles around them. This is possible because they have cameras, radar and various navigation sensors installed.

All of this information is sent to a navigation system that can identify the environment thanks to mathematical algorithms and IT systems that recognise the situation.

The importance of cameras

The cameras fitted to the vehicle work with incredible precision, allowing the car to identify uncertainties and make decisions for navigation. To guide these vehicles, the user must enter an address into the built-in satnav system so that the computer can identify the route—just as any car with a satnav device would do—and then it follows the specified route while driving.

Independent of the chosen route, it's the outside influences that are the most troublesome thing when it comes to riding in a self-driving vehicle and which may go unnoticed by the car's satnav. This is why all of the car's sensors and data-receiving devices are active, so that it can anticipate any potential dangers that may arise while driving.

Thanks to the car's connection with technology services in the cloud, the vehicle is able to change the route to adapt to traffic or other circumstances that might occur on the road.

Are self-driving cars the future?

That’s the question on everyone’s mind. At present, this option may be an alternative to conventional driving. The societies of the future—and near future—are surely ready to coexist with this type of transportation.

The future of mobility is one of the themes that will be examined at Global Mobility Call, so that we can understand how we’ll be able to face these contexts and what technologies will be available to us. Active development in this automotive field and city mobility envisage self-driving mobility as being integrated across various urban environments—whether that’s public transportation with automatic buses, or trains and metros that are capable of operating without a driver present and can be controlled remotely.

For this to become a reality, however, societies need to evolve towards this alternative mobility model, especially in terms of their citizens, the environment and the machines themselves. Connected cars are surely expected to be a familiar part of our driving experience in the near future, becoming just as second-nature as driving is for us today.