Actually, I find driving my own car a relaxing and enjoyable activity; (certainly not in city traffic, but getting out of the dense population onto a winding road ... ) is a leisurely escape, and the "driving" is a big part of it. So; not so much about "control" as it is about "activity". I think there would be a huge lobby of Car&Driver enthusiasts who would feel similarly.
But perhaps to have a little autonomous city-commuter is a different story. I would imagine that vehicle looking more like transport-cube than like an automobile. Sort of like Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (if you get the association).
Unfortunately, I think autonomous cars will have acceptance problems in the marketplace, Jenn. The Toyota unintended acceleration woes serve as proof of that. Even if autonomous cars could reduce the annual road fatalities in the U.S. from 30,000 to 300, you'd still have a problem with lawsuits. The tort system is the technology's biggest obstacle.
Good point about the military, naperlou. DARPA's Grand Challenge gave this technology an enormous boost. Remember the first Grand Challenge? Most newspapers wrote humorous stories about how the bad the cars performed. Within two years, though, five cars completed the course. The development pace of this technology has been amazing. I'd like to see what would happen if they ran another Grand Challenge.
Jennifer, the military has been working on autonomous vehicles for decades. I like this concept, where vision is the main sensor. The problem with previous concepts is that of multi-sensor fusion. Having a lot of complex sensors makes it hard to develop a system. Consider that people use vision and a very low resolution accelerometer. That really seems to be the way to go.
No matter how much I read on this subject, I don't think it will ever stop amazing me. It's also makes me wonder what took so long to get autonomous cars off the ground. (I had this idea when I was 5. Of course, I didn't know it was an autonomous car. Truth be told, I just thought cruise control did the same thing.) Same-same. :)
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