When the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Grand Challenge autonomous vehicle race debuted in 2004, the results bordered on comedy. None of the vehicles drove more than 7.4 miles. Some ran in dizzy circles. Others stalled atop rocks. A robotic motorcycle journeyed all of two feet before toppling over. A 10-ton commercial truck lumbered forward a few yards and stopped like a confused buffalo, overwhelmed by the multitude of sensor signals zipping past its small brain.
Their technical struggles didn't last long. Nineteen months later, five vehicles finished the 132-mile second Grand Challenge. In 2007, six more completed DARPA's 60-mile Urban Grand Challenge.
Today the work continues. Google's automated cars have logged more than 140,000 miles. General Motors has predicted that self-driving vehicles will be ready by the end of this decade.
Click the image below to see our slideshow of the evolution of autonomous vehicles over the past seven years.
Stanford University's "Stanley" won the 2005 Grand Challenge by finishing in six hours, 53 minutes. The Volkswagen Touareg R5 combined six laser range finders with a color camera, radar system, GPS system, and inertial navigation system.
Photo courtesy of Stanford University
For Further Reading
To keep up with our Chevy Volt coverage, go to Drive for Innovation and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director Brian Fuller. On his trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is driving a Volt across America to interview engineers.
One question on the whole topic: Would you be willing to sign your name to the certicicate stating that the system was "safe enough", in todays litigous climate? I don't think that I would be willing to do that. Yes, there would be honour and fame, but also herds of hungry lawyers. Not within a few hours.
There are some options that I think are a good idea. Adaptive cruise control that maintains a 'safe' distamce from the car ahead, and then resumes speed. But I don't like the function that the car applies the brakes if a collision is imminent. Supposedly the braking will be harsh so that the driver that is texting rather than driving will be unnerved, and not rely on this feature. I don't think I would be comfortable letting the car have control. However, this might be perfect for the driver that would rather text or read a book.
great idea to have self-driven cars but as they say, it could have disadvantages... not being safe enough. this volkswagen r5 has enhanced high tech car parts system like radar gps and inertial system. wish I could rebuild on my vw too... I do search car parts in jcwhitney site...this is where I get cheap car interior accessories
A half century ago, cars were still built by people, not robots. Even on some of the countryís longest assembly lines, human workers installed windows, doors, hoods, engines, windshields, and batteries, with no robotic aid.
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