Self-driving car

automobile capable of traveling without human input
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A driverless car (also called autonomous car or self-driving car, i.e. self-operating) is a vehicle that can perform certain tasks on its own, without the help of a human driver. The car uses sensors to analyze its environment, and doesn't need a human's help for certain tasks.[1] These tasks commoly include parking the car, driving while keeping the same lane on a highway or driving at a predefined speed. In public places, certain buses have been programmed to travel a given route. As of 2021, self-driving cars have been used in controlled envirnoments more and more. An example of this might be buses that transfer passengers between airport terminals.

A self-driving bus, travelling a pre-defined route, in Germany
Waymo Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid undergoing testing in the San Francisco Bay Area
Automated racing car on display at the 2017 New York City ePrix


Typical sensors used by a self-driving vehicle include lidar, digital cameras, GPS and IMU.[2][3]

High-definition maps can be used to accurately locate a self-driving car in a place, and to give information about parts of a road not seen by the car.[4]

Ethical issuesEdit

Even though it is technically possible to build cars that do certain things on their own, the question whether it should be done is different. Ethical questions include:

  • Is a machine able to judge a situation correctly? – Can it make a difference between a stroller with a child, and a stroller with a doll?
  • Is it acceptable to judge a situation by the expected death toll? (This has been formalized as the trolley problem.)
  • If it is acceptable to judge such a situation by the expected death toll, what are meaningful criteria? – should the age of those killed be taken into account?

Legal issuesEdit

Even though these vehicles can already do a lot on their own, the laws of most countries still require that a driver is present. In many cases, self-driving buses also need a special permit from the government.

If a motor vehicle produces an accident, there always is the question of who is responsible, to determine what damages need to be paid. This also applies to self-driving cars: A self-driving car is like a robot: Software is used for the driving. This software relies on a number of sensors to take decisions. Determining what went wrong in the case of an accident can be very difficult. This includes the question of who is legally responsible.


  1. Gehrig, Stefan K.; Stein, Fridtjof J. (1999). Dead reckoning and cartography using stereo vision for an automated car. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. Vol. 3. Kyongju. pp. 1507–1512. doi:10.1109/IROS.1999.811692. ISBN 0-7803-5184-3.
  2. Huval, Brody; Wang, Tao; Tandon, Sameep; Kiske, Jeff; Song, Will; Pazhayampallil, Joel (2015). "An Empirical Evaluation of Deep Learning on Highway Driving". arXiv:1504.01716 [cs.RO].
  3. Corke, Peter; Lobo, Jorge; Dias, Jorge (1 June 2007). "An Introduction to Inertial and Visual Sensing". The International Journal of Robotics Research. 26 (6): 519–535. CiteSeerX doi:10.1177/0278364907079279. S2CID 206499861.
  4. Liu, Rong; Wang, Jinling; Zhang, Bingqi (27 August 2019). "High Definition Map for Automated Driving: Overview and Analysis". Journal of Navigation. 73 (2): 324–341. doi:10.1017/S0373463319000638. ISSN 0373-4633. S2CID 202906063.