puter and work together to allow the car to navigate safely through complex courses. “Up here on the roof of the car is the laser sensor. This scans the area around the car constant- ly. The laser hits objects, and bounces back to the sensor to estimate how far away the objects are.” “Isn’t that how a bat does it?” piped in Chloe. Mr. Dewey nodded. “Basically, but a bat uses reflected sound waves, called echolocation. Bats use sound waves of up to 100,000 hertz—ultrasound—to navigate and hunt. They send out ultrasound waves, which bounce off distant objects and travel back to their ears. This tells the bat how far away objects are so they can avoid obstacles or catch the mosquitos they are after. “This laser uses light. In fact, the word “laser” isn’t actually a word—it represents the phrase light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation . In other words, light becomes stronger when it is exposed to electromagnetic radiation .” He pointed at the device on top of the car. “The laser is constantly monitoring the distances between objects and the car. There is a GPS, of course, which pinpoints the exact location of the car on a map. Other equipment, like cameras, help keep the passengers, and others on the road, safe. Technology has really changed the way we drive.” Autonomous Cars—a Good Thing? Proponents of the self-driving car cite many reasons why this car is a good thing. Studies suggest that autofocus cars would reduce the number of traffic accidents—computers make fewer mistakes than humans. Autonomous cars could reduce traffic jams and make the roads flow more smoothly. And, these vehicles could open up a whole new world for those who can’t drive now—underage drivers, the elderly, the blind, and physically challenged. There are those doubters, however, who suggest that autonomous cars would lead to the loss of many jobs for those who drive vehicles for a living, there would be a lack of privacy, and that many drivers would be hesitant to give up their control of the cars. We’ll have to see what the future brings.
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