cars that driver themselves:
Chocolate maker Ben Tseitlin thought he'd spotted a new Google mapping car in 2009 while driving down the 280 highway in California. He took video of the vehicle and posted it to his Facebook page. Months later he found out that he was the first person to publicly document one of Google's fleet of self-driving cars. The firm announced, almost a year later, that its autonomous vehicles had driven 140,000 miles. Now it wants to make them street legal.
Self-driving cars have long been a dream for researchers. In 2004, DARPA launched its Grand Challenge, inviting academics to design robotic cars that could drive 150 miles through the desert. The best effort only reached seven miles. Just five years later, Google had taken many of the DARPA teams' researchers and kicked things up a notch. What's next?
All of Google's vehicles were manned, but the operators barely interacted with the vehicles. The search giant recently succeeded in lobbying Nevada to legalize the vehicles and to exempt them from laws prohibiting texting while driving.
Todd Jochem, who worked on autonomous vehicles at Carnegie Mellon, says it will take a while. "We haven't understood the whole driving problem and every scenario," he says. "The fundamental problem is the thing we don't know, such as driving through rainstorms or directly into the sun."
technology into mainstream
Nevertheless, some automated technology is already making its way into vehicles. Jochem developed and sold a company that designed lane departure warning systems for drivers of heavy trucks. Adaptive cruise control uses lasers to monitor cars up ahead, and a dynamic speed set uses GPS data, combined with information about speed limits, to automatically set speed based on where a car is.
One possible way forward for vehicle automation is the gradual transition of such systems from corrective to everyday use, where they become tools for convenience rather than purely for safety. There is a clear line of development between systems designed to alert you when your vehicle deviates from set behaviors and systems that take action on your behalf, and, finally, automotive technologies that handle things for you on an everyday basis.
Please click here for more information about the DARPA challenge.