Keysight Connect #9 - The Anatomy Of A Self-Driving Car

2022-02-04  |  3 min read 

[Presented by Ionel Ghita]

A self-driving car or an autonomous vehicle (AV) is a car that uses different types of technology and sensors to analyze its surroundings and drive itself with little or no human intervention. The technology needed to make this type of car possible combines a variety of sensors that can perceive surroundings, such as thermographic cameras, radar, lidar, sonar, GPS, odometry, and inertial measurement units. Additionally, advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage.

According to a system developed by SAE International, autonomous vehicles are categorized into 6 different levels: 

  • Level 0 - no automation

  • Level 1 - hands-on/shared control

  • Level 2 - hands-off

  • Level 3 - eyes off

  • Level 4 - mind off

  • Level 5 - steering wheel optional.

As of now, cars operating at Level 3 and above represent a very small portion of the market and, although there’s no driver in the car, they are still supervised by humans.


Although self-driving cars have just recently gained massive popularity as tech companies are investing in research and development to make them possible, the first experiments of automated driving systems (ADS) have started at least in the 1920s, while trials began in the 1950s. 

The first autonomous vehicle appeared in the 1980s at Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab.

How Do Self-Driving Cars Work?

To make it easy to understand, we’ll use a parallel between humans and cars:

  • The “circulatory” system: this one refers to the energy distribution system

  • The “sensorial” system: this one refers to all the detection systems that enable the car to navigate safely 

  • The “nervous” system: this one refers to the car’s “brain”, the system that enables the car to make decisions based on the data that comes from the detection systems, as well as the car’s “nerves”, the systems that send the commands to the engine, wheels, brakes, etc. 

Want to find out more about each of these systems? Check out this video from our last Keysight Connect meetup where we talked about the anatomy of a self-driving car and the technologies that make one possible 👇

*This video was recorded during a Keysight Technologies Romania online meetup. If you want to be notified about upcoming events, follow us on social media.