The participation of Toyota sends a signal that automakers are taking autonomous vehicles seriously, experts say. "Having someone like Toyota, with that kind of industry pull, is a very important step," Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for AutoPacific Inc., told Design News. "Google is one thing. But having a big automaker exploring this is another." Sullivan added that he has seen and photographed Toyota's autonomous vehicles being tested near its research center in Ann Arbor, Mich.
A Lexus equipped with a 360-degree LIDAR (light detection and ranging) laser on its roof can detect objects as far away as 70 meters. (Source: Toyota Motor Corp.)
Up to now, the most notable driverless cars have come from outside the auto industry's original equipment market. In the Defense Department's 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, five cars developed by research teams independently traversed a 140-mile course, including mountain roads and hairpin turns. In the 2007 Urban Challenge, six more vehicles finished successfully. Google's autonomous cars are also said to have logged more than a quarter-million driverless miles.
Still, technical challenges remain if driverless cars are ever to become products. Designers of driverless vehicles have previously told Design News that GPS systems don't update quickly enough, and must be augmented by supporting technologies, such as inertial sensors. Driverless cars are also still "learning" to determine what's in front of them, and whether it's time to stop or go.
Sullivan said that the challenges will have to be addressed over many years. "The big thing will be getting consumers to trust this technology," he told us. "A lot of them still have issues with their phones and computers, so how can we expect them to trust an autonomous car?"
I agree with you, sysdesign. Some of the experts I've talked to also agree. In certain situations today, they say autonomous vehicles can do better than humans. In the DARPA Urban Challenge six years ago, for example, it was said that human drivers were repeatedly making mistakes -- rolling through stop signs and failing to use turn signals. Driverless cars never made those mistakes.
Cars that humans drive will become toys. There is no need to own cars. Order a driverless car to come get you at X;XX time and it can be there. After you get out you get charged and the driverless goes on to park itself or to pick up the next passanger. Utilizaton of cars will go up there would be no need to have two cars or even one car to a family. If soccor mom or dad needs a van, order one up on you cell phone. Same if you need trucks. Think of all the cars parked at airports parking lots. What a waste of the transporation resource! Life cycle of driverless cars can be shorter because of higher usage rates, meaning faster upgrade to newer technologies.
I acturally think I rather have a predictable driverless car on the road than a unpredictable teenager driver texting or a hung over driver. Driverless cars can also network with each other to know what cars are around them, much like what the GPS based air traffic control would be like but simplier because there is only two dimensions instead of three.
at least initially. Yes of course, driving is fun. Why should I leave this to a computer? But we all know that most western societies are aging quickly and those who can enjoy their old age in good health, are fortunate exceptions. Dominant biographies include glasses in one's forties, a stroke in the fifties, diabetes and hearing aids in the sixties and artificial hips or ankles in the seventies, while still getting 100 years old. That makes some 30 years without possibility to participate on individual traffic. And public transport is rather rare in the rural areas. Think about the increase in quality for perhaps a third of one's life.
For those of you who would feel uncomfortable driving on the freeway with driverless cars, THINK. You are now driving on the freeway with cars without a competent driver, driving too slow, speeding, changing lanes constantly, tailgating, and other careless and inconsiderate actions. For those who fly, you have been riding with driverless planes since the 1960's. Fortunately, they do have a driver to take off and land. Now it is possible for the pilots to land, hands off, as well. Those who are young enough, will see hands off driving in the not-so-distant future. The technology is there, the development is not. You will enter you starting co-ordinates, taken from a GPS reading, and your destination from a log book of familiar places, start the engine, and relax. Your controlled trip will be much more efficient, just like traveling on cruise control. Next available is an engine that runs constantly at its most efficient speed, without cooling or lubrication, no changing gears.
Eafpre, the reason there are so many cars is because people enjoy getting into a massive 1 ton machine, and having it amplify their every hand or foot movement with hundreds of horsepower. Basically cars are human transformers, that make us all feel superhuman for just a bit.
No one want to just get into a little capsule and turn up somewhere.
That would make us claustrophobic and bored. For the tremendous cost of a vehicle, we would all much rather save that money and simply use mass transit, which already is the transportation module you mentioned, except you may have to transfer once or twice, and don't have to waste thousands a year to buy, fuel, and maintain.
If you did not get the feeling of power from driving a car yourself, no one would want one. They should build a subway in Shanghai.
@Rigby5--I would have to disagree. Strip away your world view of a "car" as you know it today, and for the purpose of commuting what if you have a transportation module that you can get in whenever you want, go whereever you want, and it does so autonomously? Would not that be very attractive? People want convenience, ability to change plans spontaneously, and flexibility. While mass transport works for many, why are there so many cars even in cities (like, say, Shanghai) where it can take 2 hours from one side to the other?
While not all driving is for fun, cars are not the right solution for driving that is not for fun. The main purpose of cars is simply for the feeling of power. If you simply want transportation, mass transit makes far more sense. Self driving individual cars make no sense at all.
The only point of self driving would be for cargo transport off the public roads, such as in Alaska or tunnels.
Cars are not multi million dollar planes or even million dollar trains. Cars are not maintained, get old, are abused, not services, or worse improperly serviced.
So auto driving cars will never be acceptible on the public road. Sensors are incredibly inadequate, and the only way planes do it is with mandatory transponders that you will never be able to require pedestrians, pets, trees, etc. have.
All it takes is one spectacular death, and it will cost the manufacturer billions. It does not matter if it is safer than normal driving. The juries will award billions.
But it will also be a century before automated systems even begin to approach the skills of a human. There are thousands of problems they have not even though of yet, such as radar interference, optical illusions, rain and snow, etc. People don't even know how to test software systems this requires, much less actually creating it. Defects go up exponentially with program complexity. There is no question is it beyond our reach presently.
tnek--you are right on that a combination of vehicle technology and adpating infrastructure is the ultimate solution. This is, in part, what V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure) is about. I also agree with your physical solutions--design lanes to feed in cars correctly, let them out correctly, control spacing, etc.
Here in Colorado they have tried, during the peak ski season when there is excessive traffic going to or coming from the mountains, to set up caravans with police leading and trailing a group of vehicles moving at constant speed. I haven't heard much lately on what they learned from the trials, but how much simpler would that be with intelligent vehicles, V2V and V2I communications?
Hi Elizabeth. OK, I have to admit I like driving my Jaguar. I used to have an AWD Turbo Eagle Talon and really DROVE that.
But, I think most of the time most of the urban miles are commuting, so this technology could have a real impact. Also consider that with a self-driving car, you can optimize the behavior for maximum efficiency, especially if you communicate w/other vehicles and plan ahead to minimize speed changes. The comments from another writer are dead-on regarding adapting infrastructure to facilitate this; but hey, we have HOV lanes, bus lanes, light rail along the highway, distributor/collector lanes, traffic lights to pulse in volume onto busy roads, etc.
I'm with you, I hope that we are still "allowed" to drive in this future. Think Will Smith in I Robot.
As energy efficiency becomes more and more a concern for makers of electronics devices, researchers are coming up with new ways to harvest energy from sound vibration, footsteps, and even electromagnetic fields in the air.
The government wants to study your brain, and DARPA wants to use similar information to give robots true autonomy beyond any artificial intelligence developed to date. Sound like science fiction? It's not.
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