Autonomous Vehicle

Definition of Autonomous Vehicle

An autonomous vehicle, also known as a self-driving vehicle or driverless car, is a vehicle that uses advanced technology, such as sensors, cameras, and artificial intelligence, to navigate, steer, and control its movement without human intervention. These vehicles rely on various subsystems and components, including software algorithms, GPS systems, and communication with other vehicles and infrastructure, to make decisions about the driving environment. The goal of autonomous vehicles is to enhance transportation safety, efficiency, and convenience for passengers.


The phonetic transcription of the keyword “Autonomous Vehicle” in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) would be: /ɔːˈtɒnəməs ˈviɪəkl/.

Key Takeaways

  1. Autonomous vehicles use a combination of sensors, cameras, and software to navigate and respond to traffic situations without human intervention.
  2. These self-driving cars have the potential to drastically reduce accidents, ease traffic congestion, and make transportation more efficient and accessible for everyone.
  3. Despite the promising advancements, concerns surrounding the technology include safety risks, cybersecurity threats, and the impact on job markets for traditional drivers.

Importance of Autonomous Vehicle

The term “autonomous vehicle” (AV) is important because it represents a significant shift in the transportation industry, offering the potential to transform the way people commute and impact various economic, environmental, and societal aspects.

By leveraging advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, sensors, and machine learning, AVs can perform complex driving tasks without human intervention, thereby reducing the likelihood of human errors that cause accidents, improving road safety, and increasing mobility for those unable to drive.

Additionally, autonomous vehicles hold the promise of optimizing traffic flow, reducing congestion, lowering emissions, and providing new economic prospects through the development of new products, services, and business models.

By emphasizing the significance of autonomous vehicles in modern society, we highlight the need for ongoing research, development, and collaboration among various stakeholders, including policymakers, manufacturers, and consumers, to ensure their successful integration and widespread adoption.


Autonomous vehicles, also known as self-driving cars, are at the forefront of revolutionizing the transportation industry. Their primary purpose is to provide a safer, more efficient, and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional vehicles that rely on human drivers.

One of the most promising aspects of autonomous vehicles is their potential to significantly reduce the number of accidents caused by human error, such as distracted driving, intoxication, and fatigue. As a result, these vehicles have the potential to save thousands of lives annually and alleviate traffic congestion by implementing advanced algorithms that optimize traffic flow.

In addition to safety benefits, autonomous vehicles are expected to enhance the overall driving experience and accessibility for individuals who may be unable to operate a conventional vehicle, such as the elderly or those with disabilities. With the integration of advanced sensors, cameras, and artificial intelligence, these vehicles are designed to navigate complex environments and make decisions in real-time to ensure a smooth and efficient journey.

Furthermore, by diminishing the need for parking infrastructure as these vehicles become part of shared fleets, urban spaces can be redesigned for better land use, ultimately contributing to more sustainable and livable cities. The continued development and refinement of autonomous vehicle technology are poised to transform the way we commute, making travel more convenient, economical, and inclusive for everyone.

Examples of Autonomous Vehicle

Waymo: Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent company), is one of the leading companies in autonomous vehicle technology. Since its establishment in 2009, Waymo has developed self-driving cars and has conducted extensive testing in various cities across the United States. Waymo’s autonomous vehicles have covered over 20 million miles on public roads and billions of miles in simulation. In 2020, Waymo launched Waymo One, a fully self-driving taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona, allowing users to hail a ride in an autonomous vehicle.

Tesla Autopilot: Tesla Inc., the renowned electric vehicle manufacturer, has developed an advanced driver-assistance system called Autopilot. While not a completely autonomous driving system, it offers various semi-autonomous features such as adaptive cruise control, lane centering, self-parking and the ability to change lanes with driver confirmation. Tesla continues to work on improving Autopilot through over-the-air software updates, with the ultimate goal of achieving full self-driving capability in the future.

Cruise (GM): Cruise Automation, a subsidiary of General Motors (GM), is another key player in the development of autonomous vehicle technology. Established in 2013 and acquired by GM in 2016, Cruise focuses on the development and testing of self-driving cars using the Chevrolet Bolt EV as the base platform. Cruise has been conducting tests in major cities such as San Francisco, Phoenix, and Detroit. In 2021, Cruise received permission from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test its autonomous vehicles without a human safety driver on public roads.

Autonomous Vehicle FAQs

What is an autonomous vehicle?

An autonomous vehicle, also known as a self-driving car or driverless car, is a vehicle that can navigate and drive itself without any direct input from a human operator. It uses a combination of sensors, cameras, and advanced software to perceive its environment and make intelligent driving decisions based on this information.

How do autonomous vehicles work?

Autonomous vehicles use a variety of sensors, such as cameras, LiDAR, radar, and ultrasonic sensors, to gather data about their surroundings. This data is processed by powerful on-board computers running advanced algorithms, which help the vehicle understand its environment and make driving decisions like acceleration, braking, and steering. GPS and mapping data are also used for navigation and route planning.

What are the levels of vehicle autonomy?

Vehicle autonomy is classified into six levels, ranging from Level 0 (no automation) to Level 5 (full automation). Level 0 vehicles have no autonomous features, relying entirely on human intervention for all driving tasks. Level 1 vehicles have some driver assistance features, such as adaptive cruise control. Level 2 vehicles have partial automation, with systems like lane-keeping assist and self-parking. Level 3 vehicles can drive themselves in certain situations but require driver intervention when needed. Level 4 vehicles can drive themselves without human input in most situations and environments. Level 5 vehicles are completely self-driving and can handle all driving tasks without any human input.

Are autonomous vehicles safe?

Autonomous vehicles are designed with safety as a top priority. They use sophisticated systems and fail-safe measures to minimize the risk of accidents. While no technology is perfect, studies show that autonomous vehicles can significantly reduce traffic accidents caused by human error. As the technology continues to develop and improve, autonomous vehicles’ safety is expected to increase further.

When will autonomous vehicles be available to the public?

Some autonomous features are already available in vehicles on the market, such as self-parking systems, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist. However, fully autonomous vehicles (Level 4 and 5) are still in development. Various automakers and tech companies are actively working on self-driving technology, and while some have announced tentative dates for releasing their autonomous vehicles, it is ultimately dependent on technological advancements, regulatory approval, and infrastructure development. It is difficult to predict an exact timeline for widespread public use of fully autonomous vehicles.

Related Technology Terms

  • Self-driving cars
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Sensor technologies
  • Vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V)
  • Traffic management systems

Sources for More Information


About The Authors

The DevX Technology Glossary is reviewed by technology experts and writers from our community. Terms and definitions continue to go under updates to stay relevant and up-to-date. These experts help us maintain the almost 10,000+ technology terms on DevX. Our reviewers have a strong technical background in software development, engineering, and startup businesses. They are experts with real-world experience working in the tech industry and academia.

See our full expert review panel.

These experts include:


About Our Editorial Process

At DevX, we’re dedicated to tech entrepreneurship. Our team closely follows industry shifts, new products, AI breakthroughs, technology trends, and funding announcements. Articles undergo thorough editing to ensure accuracy and clarity, reflecting DevX’s style and supporting entrepreneurs in the tech sphere.

See our full editorial policy.

More Technology Terms

Technology Glossary

Table of Contents