Googleís recent announcement that it would produce approximately 100 self-driving cars came as a surprise to the general public, but itís hardly a new idea within the confines of the auto industry.
Enthusiasm for autonomous vehicles has grown in the past decade, as automakers and universities have teamed to create cars capable of steering, braking, accelerating, and navigating on their own. Starting in 2004, races sponsored the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) proved that a self-driven car was a viable concept, with five vehicles completing a rugged 132-mile course in the second race and six more finishing the third. Since that time, Google has logged more than 700,000 miles on its self-driving cars.
Here, we present a short history of autonomous cars. From student-designed buggies to self-driving production cars, we offer a glimpse at the future of the automobile.
Click on Chevroletís EN-V below to start the slideshow.
Could this be the future of the automobile? Jointly developed with Segway Inc., Chevroletís EN-V (Electric Networked-Vehicle) is a self-driven, electrically propelled concept car designed for urban environments. Chevy said the autonomous two-seat vehicle is designed to address environmental issues, traffic congestion, parking, safety, and energy consumption. It will reportedly be featured in a 2015 Disney film called Tomorrowland. (Source: Chevrolet)
A zero risk situation winds up being one in which no choice can lead to any injury. That sounds a lot like the situation of dead people. Any life worth living includes making decisions, and wrong choices can lead to problems. The zero risk autos will be so slow that they will be completely worthless. Any zero risk control software will be in a constant state of panic because some exception may occur, and by definition it is not prepared to handle any exceptions.
Reducing traffic injuries would take a few simple but drastic changes: 1. Only license people willing and able tp focus their atention on driving. 2. Remove the distractions from the drivers situation. This would mean a minimal number of controls. 3. Test reaction times at each license renewal, and don't renew those with the excess response delays.4. As part of the license test require an understanding of some vehicl kinematics, such as braking ability and turning dynamics. 5. Do not issue a license to anybody who can't read.
For starters this would cut the traffic on the roadways in half, which would reduce all kinds of problems. And those drivers remaining would be much safer drivers. PLUS, public transportation would suddenly have enough riders to be profitable.
LIDAR is a little more sophisticated than headlights. It is more like the situation we have with cell phones, where each signal includes coding such that the source can differentiate its signals from the 100's of others propagating through the same space.
See the posting by "Ratsky" in the comments on "What's That Thing Atop the Google Car?"
Chuck, that is the rub. The legal liability is going to overwhelm this.
The solution that makes sense is a system that uses sensors in the road, something like your second slide. In that case, the liability is spread between the government and the car maker. On the other hand, the start-up cost is outrageous. It may be worth it, but it will take a real act of political will.
I think the march of history and an aging population will make this inevitable. Recall that in the early 20th century automobiles themselves were the subject of great concerns and restrictive legislation (they scare the horses!). When my eyesight, hearing, and reflexes degrade sufficiently, I will be happy to turn over driving duties to Google.
Unfortunately while the only solutions require active sensors I don't really see this becoming a reality. Headlights->object->human works as long as there are no oncoming headlights washing out the reflected signal. If we have hundreds of cars with lidars the anti-jamming that is going to be required will make it infeasable.
Don't get me wrong, I spend 1.5hrs a day actively driving and could probably run a YouTube channel with the crazy stuff I see everyday. You will be hard pressed to find someone more keen on getting the meatbag out of the driver's seat.
The hard part, as with most sensible things, will be convincing law makers, because lets face it the control freaks in parliament /congress are not going to go for a machine driving them around for at least 2 generations.
I agree with you, Pudubu. A road full of autonomous cars would definitely reduce the annual 30,000 highway fatalities in this country. On the other hand, I'm not confident that automakers will be willing to do this, due to legal fears. Look how much Toyota lost in the unintended acceleration case. If automakers have to set aside billions of dollars for legal costs, it's going to make them think twice about this, no matter how many lives might be saved in the process.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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