Self Driving Cars: Robotic Cars to Improve Safety and Fuel Efficiency on the Road
Can You Imagine Operating a Driverless Car?
Believe it or not, we are close to the time that we can get into a vehicle and simply have the machine navigate us to where we want to go.
Some experts believe that fully autonomous vehicles will be available as soon as by 2020. No worries about texting, talking on cell phones or engaging in other distracted driving actions. In fact, you won't even need to find a place to park because your self driving car will drop you off first before finding a spot at the parking garage.
Don't believe me?
Watch the videos below and see how these future cars can help improve safety and fuel efficiency on the road. Not only can we help prevent accidents caused by distracted driving, but lanes of traffic can be safely reduced in size, allowing us to move more cars in the same space to help relieve congested highways. As a result, commute time is reduced, which reduces fuel consumption.
Take out needless extra driving around (either because you are lost or because you are trying to find a convenient parking place) and you can save even more gas!
Curious? Read on about self-driving cars!
Learn more about Driverless Cars
Self Driving Cars and Other Electric Cars Highlighted at the 50th Anniversary of the Seattle World's Fair
My dad has been involved with future cars for many years now. He is the one that first introduced me to the real possibilities of electric cars and is now helping to promote self driving cars as another means toward achieving energy independence and reducing fuel costs.
These future concept cars will be highlighted in September 2012 at the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. The City of Seattle and the Seattle Center Foundation formed the Next 50 committee, with the following vision:
“The Next Fifty does more than just look back to the Seattle World's Fair: It once again ignites creativity and vision and looks to the future.”
On September 7, 2012, you can attend a conference and workshops at McCall Hall at the Seattle Center, entitled "Beyond Oil, Transforming Transportation in the 21st Century ."
According to program materials, attendees will learn about "the convergence of advances in information technology, communications, batteries, lightweight materials, smart grid technologies, aviation biofuels and electric vehicles."
These automotive technologies, either existing or in development in the first part of this century will make getting from place to place safer, more efficient and more affordable than ever. As a result, experts predict that advances like self driving cars and electric vehicles will transform our communities in a positive way.
Fewer vehicle emissions, less space required for wide streets and safer conditions for drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists are all expected.
Google's Self-Driving Car
Driving in the 1960s vs. 2010
How do Self Driving Cars Work?
Google is leading the way toward viable, self-driving cars, under the guidance of Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun. Until recently, Google's self-driving cars were undergoing development in secret. Today, as shown in the videos throughout this article, Google is allowing press to go along for the ride, experiencing the future of driving!
Using "telematics," an onboard computerized information and communications system within the vehicle, drivers can obtain real time data, the most efficient travel route to their desired destination, and avoid traffic. Telematics also can guide you to the nearest open parking space or gas station. Already in use in some modern vehicles, telematics is becoming increasingly advanced to the point of cars being able to literally drive themselves.
Professor Thrun and Google engineer Chris Urmson described how self driving cars work in a speech at the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in San Francisco in April 2012.
As they explained, the key to operating a driverless car is the Velodyne 64-beam laser, mounted on top of the car, that generates a detailed 3D map of the environment. The car uses the images that it "sees" with the laser and overlays the data onto computerized maps of the world.
Not only does the laser provide real-time feedback concerning the car's surroundings, but radar sensors on the front and rear bumpers gather information concerning traffic, pedestrians and even animals darting into the road. Another camera detects traffic lights, and a GPS system tracks the car's every movement.
The engineers have programmed the self-driving cars to act as a "normal" driver might behave, as well. For example, a driverless car will stop at a 4-way intersection and yield to other cars. If another car misses its turn, Google's self-driving car will slightly advance to show the direction it intends to move.
Google's involvement in this project is largely due to the massive amount of computations and mapping data that is required to make self-driving cars "smart."
How do Self Driving Cars Work?
What Issues are Addressed by Self Driving Cars?
Self-driving and other future cars cars are expected to be beneficial in many ways. Among other things we can address:
1. Dependence on Foreign Oil
Not only is the continued dependence on the Middle East for oil supplies extremely expensive, but it puts the U.S. in a poor position when it comes to national defense. We are literally fighting to maintain access to the vast reserves, while such dependence is not sustainable. The cost to protect world oil supplies in this region is more than $80 billion per year for the United States military.
Its also expensive for consumers. Did you know that oil now costs over $100/barrel today, yet only 10 years ago, it was a mere $20/barrel? In short, imported oil costs one billion (that's billion with a "b") each and every day, resulting in half of the U.S. trade deficit.
With significantly increased efficiency from self-driving cars, combined with electric vehicle technology, it could be a whole new world in just 10-15 years.
2. Road Accidents
In the U.S. alone, there are more than 30,000 motor vehicle-related fatalities each year. Around the world, vehicle accidents claim more than one million lives annually. Road accidents are the leading cause of injury death among children 10-19 years old. Smart, self-driving vehicles are expected to be able to react faster than humans to avoid accidents. Experts predict a potential 80% reduction in motor vehicle accidents.
3. Traffic Congestion
Who likes to sit in traffic? Not me! In fact, that is one of the primary reasons we moved from a major metropolitan area to a smaller, rural setting in 2006. Traffic congestion wastes time, money and fuel, which hurts the economy and results in excessive amounts of CO2 released into the atmosphere. Let's not even consider the stress-related health impacts of traffic congestion!
Self-driving cars will reduce traffic congestion and pollution caused by stop and go driving by increasing road capacity without building more lanes. Autonomous vehicles can travel much more closely (and safely) than driver-operated cars, which can also boost the capacity of existing highways by three-fold.
With self-driving cars in the future, people can more easily "share" vehicles with others. Can you imagine the day when you use an application on your smart phone to call a driverless car to pick you up at any given time to drive you where you need to go?
Mercedes Self Driving Car
Would you Operate a Driverless Car?
Autonomous Self Driving Cars
Google's Self Driving Car
© 2012 Stephanie Hicks