Self Driving Cars of the Future
Self-Driving Vehicles Available by the End of 2013
The future of transportation is here! Self-driving cars are a reality and the technology will be available in new models by the end of 2013. Crazy? Unbelievable? Fantastic? However cool and amazing the idea is, once you get past the initial shock the idea doesn't seem so far-fetched or futuristic. To coin a favorite phrase...if we can put people on the moon, why wouldn't we be able to create cars that drive themselves? And the fact is...we have.
Just think of what this means. The possibilities are endless. Don't feel like driving your kids to school? That's ok, the car will do it for you, and then come right back and park itself in your driveway. To tired to go grocery shopping but you need bread and butter? Order online and have your car drive to the store...the drive through guy will just put your groceries in your car and voila...your making toast. Sounds great! Well...were not there yet but someday soon...
Google's self driving car has been tested extensively since 2011 and at this point has logged in over 300,000 miles of test driving without incident. Google's self driving car uses computers and sensors to operate the vehicle. It has been tested on the busy streets of Las Vegas and the highways of Nevada. The test vehicle is completely autonomous, however a passenger in the driver's seat can take control at anytime. Google doesn't plan on selling the vehicles, but does plan on selling the technology to car manufacturers. They may want to hurry though, as many different car manufacturers are already developing and perfecting the technology themselves.
Google's Self Driving Car
Other Auto Makers Jumping Into Self-Driving Technology
Google may have been the first to perfect the technology, but they are not alone. VW and Audi, GM, Ford and Volvo are all in various stages of creating a self-driving vehicle. Mercedes plans on debuting it's first semi-automatic vehicle with it's new S Class in late 2013. Mercedes plans to be first in offering an autonomous car to the public, however the technology will be added in steps. Starting with self-parking technology, Mercedes plans on moving up to the ability for the car to automatically accelerate and merge into oncoming traffic, then eventually will add the ability to self-drive on the highway. At this point, Mercedes says that it's technology is superior to Google's because of a "stereo camera" that creates a 3-D image around the car. This 3-D image will be key in creating a buffer to avoid any obstacles or pedestrians that may get in the way.
Ford had produced a self-driving proto-type in 2008. The cost of the vehicle was painful at $89,000, however it would have been illegal to use it anyway. And while Ford was proclaiming that self-driving vehicles would be available for public use by 2017, it seems that the technology is advancing so rapidly (fueled by competition by the biggest car makers) that the day when we all have our own virtual chauffeur is closer than we think.
Some of the cool technology being developed by different manufacturers:
Ford has developed it's "Traffic Jam Assist" that it hopes will lead the way for self-driving cars to easily maneuver congested stop and go traffic situations.
GM is working on a "lane center" system that not only keeps the car within it's lane but adapts to the speed of surrounding cars.
VW has been designing self-driving components that could be added to any vehicle, so you could essentially keep your old jalopy and still be firmly in the future. The VW's technology uses a combination of radars, cameras, and ultrasonic-based sensors, which are supplemented by a laser scanner and something called an electronic horizon.
VW tested this on a Passat and claims that the car can cruise at up to 80 miles per hour and has the ability to speed up in traffic or slow down as needed. It will also stay in it's own lane (that's always a good thing.)
Indeed the ability for a car to parallel park is already available in many makes and models, and it seems apparent that once car makers begin to create more opportunities for the car to drive itself in certain situations, the only thing that will be standing in the way will be regulations and the National Highway Administration.
The Benefits and Down Sides of Self-Driving Vehicles
Everyone involved with the technology agrees that the benefits of self-driving cars will be tremendous. From lower emissions, fewer accidents, reduced drunk driving incidents...the list goes on. Self driving cars could provide transportation to millions that have reduced mobility. Blind and handicapped individuals could get to the store, the doctors office etc. Inebriated individuals would not have to get behind the wheel.
Let your imagination fly...how would a fully automatic car benefit you? You could sleep on your morning commute, summon a rent-a-car (there will be an app for that), let the car drop your kids off at the mall, have the car pick up your kid from college at the end of the year...the list goes on and on. No need for designated drivers, and will we even need car insurance? Trip times will be cut in half as the computer-controlled roadway meticulously lets cars come and go in split-second precision.
Of course not everyone will be happy. Taxi drivers will be out of a job, as will truck drivers, bus drivers and limo drivers. Heck...ALL drivers will need to find new employment. Our children's children will never know what it is to drive a car (just like OUR children have no idea what a stick shift is). But many parents will be spared the stress of dealing with a new teen driver in the family. It may not be the "Jetson" future of transportation that so many of us dreamed about...but that's ok...flying cars are probably just on the horizon.