Different brands ranging from Google to Ford are planning to make driverless cars, and so there is bound to be some variation in the vehicles that eventually roll onto the market. In a nutshell, self-driving cars have technology fitted that allows them to navigate and be aware of their environment without the need for a human driver. This means each vehicle is fitted with a GPS unit, an internal navigation system and sensors including a laser rangefinder, radar, and video.
Sensor data allows them to create a 3D image of their environment. The majority of self-driving cars have “deliberate architecture” installed – meaning they are capable of making intelligent decisions, even working out the best route to their destination. Once the decision is made the journey is dissected into commands which are fed into devices called actuators. These actuators control the steering, braking and throttle. The car’s internal map will include the current and predicted static locations of buildings, traffic lights and stop signs. It will also be able to identify moving objects such as other cars and pedestrians.