Tuesday 14 January 2014
The Future of Self Driving Cars
Road rage and traffic jams could become a thing of the past when self driving cars take the wheel. Welcome to the future and innovation behind driverless cars! Roadmaps may become extremely valuable...as antiques! It wasn't that long ago when the thought of autonomous cars were unimaginable to anyone not named Hasselhoff. But lets fast forward to a couple of months ago when Google's CEO Larry Page decided to send a car around to pick up a friend of his. This car had one special feature. There was no chauffeur. No driver at all. The car drove Larry's friend twenty miles to Google, without a driver. We've been dreaming about this for decades. In fact, if you had gone to the World's Fair back in 1939, you might have heard a special promise. That promise is that by 1960 we would all be riding around in our cars going 100 miles-per-hour safely with no one at the wheel. Well we're not there yet. But we're not quite as far away as you might think. Already we've seen a host of advancements to make you a safer driver. Things like lane assist, parking assist, and even collision prevention assistance. Now at first we saw these options in high end models, but as this and even more advanced technology finds its way to a larger fleet, future roadways could become a mesh network of autonomous vehicles. They'd share information with each other and a larger network about speed, braking, and other variables, and move in a coordinated formation. This rolling, hive mind could mean shorter trip times since it would now be safe to pack the lanes to capacity, and tailgating could be a thing of the past! So, need to get some work done in the car? Not a problem. Just hop in the car, let the car do the driving for you. How did we get here, and where are we going now? Go back to the United States Department of Defense. They had the DARPA Grand Challenge. This was an obstacle course, out in the desert originally, and they invited all these research groups to come in and build unmanned vehicles to run the obstacle course. The rules were simple. Once built you could not touch that car. It moved on its own. So no remote control assistance was allowed. In the end, Stanford walked away with the grand prize - two million bucks in 2005! Toyota is working on technologies that will allow a driver to sit behind the wheel of a car, never touch the wheel, never touch the pedals, and go from point A to point B safely. It's doing this with lots of technologies like laser sensors, high definition cameras, accelerometers and more. The upside of all this is that it takes human error out of the equation, which is a good thing. Human error accounts for 93% of all traffic accidents. And in 2010 there were 33,000 deaths on US roads. So maybe in the future we've got a little auto-pilot button on our dashboards - but are we going to use it? Our culture is so car centric. Just getting your drivers license is a right of passage. When you think about it, cars really represent freedom. So would we be willing to get rid of this symbol of free will? Just so we could have fewer traffic accidents, less traffic, maybe even get rid of road rage? Well, I don't know about you, but I'm willing to give it a try.