My brother Steve and I chat by phone several times a week. He has always been very interested in cars and the auto industry. In fact, while he was in college, he interned with Ford Motor Company.
In a recent conversation he mentioned how far automobile technology has come in developing self-driving cars. I hadn’t given it much thought, but the concept of an “automatic” car intrigued me. So, I did some online research, and ran into a recent article at USA Today, entitled “Automakers get serious about self-driving cars.” (Click on the link to go to that article.)
The USA Today article points out current programs by Cadillac, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz to combine systems already in their cars with new, advanced self-driving features. The item says “The latest to disclose plans is Ford Motor, which is developing a feature for heavy traffic jams that would let the car keep up with traffic and stay in its lane. For now, Ford will only say that “Traffic Jam Assist” will be available in the “mid term,” meaning at least five years away.”
Toyota Prius modified to operate as a Google driverless car (Wikipedia)
Internet giant, Google, has been developing a computer-controlled Toyota Prius for several years. Wikipedia has the following item about the Google project:
“The Google Driverless Car is a project by Google that involves developing technology for driverless cars. The project is currently being led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of Google Street View. Thrun’s team at Stanford created the robotic vehicle Stanley which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and its US$2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense. The team developing the system consisted of 15 engineers working for Google, including Chris Urmson, Mike Montemerlo, and Anthony Levandowski who had worked on the DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges.
“The U.S. state of Nevada passed a law in June 2011 concerning the operation of driverless cars in Nevada. Google had been lobbying for driverless car laws. The Nevada law went into effect on March 1, 2012, and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles issued the first license for a self-driven car in May 2012. The license was issued to a Toyota Prius modified with Google’s experimental driver-less technology.”
So, it is looking more and more like driverless cars are in our future!
At first, I thought driverless cars sounded pretty scary. However, the more I think about it, and the more human drivers I see on the road, the idea of a computer making split decisions “behind the wheel” is starting to sound pretty good!