About Autonomous Cars

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It’s among the most interesting automotive news today: driverless, autonomous vehicles have arrived. Thanks to several tech giants and many of the major auto manufacturers, billions of dollars have been put into the research and development of autonomous cars over the last ten years or so. Driverless vehicles are everything that comes to mind when you consider “the future.”

A sooner beginning

The first truly autonomous cars came about in the 1980’s with Carnegie Mellon University’s ALV and Navlab projects, as well as the project between Bundeswehr University and Mercedes Benz: the Eureka Prometheus Project. Since these developments, many research organizations and major companies have been working to build very reliable autonomous vehicles.

How autonomous cars work

Plenty of technology. Driverless cars use many radars, cameras, high-resolution maps, and specialized software to “see” what’s in front of them, behind them, and to the sides. Operated by motion actuators attached to the pedals and steering wheels, autonomous cars are controlled by a computer that integrates all data from internal maps and sensors and uses it to control the vehicle’s motions.

Who is doing it?

At the moment, the two biggest players in the autonomous vehicle industry are Google and Tesla. Each company has their own fleet of cars that were modified to become self-driving. Google specifically has been field testing autonomous vehicles for several years now and the results are quite good. Google is so confident with their autonomous technology that they have seriously removed the pedals and steering wheels in their latest models, removing the driver’s ability to interfere with their system while the car is driving itself. And Tesla has announced that one of their models will perform the first coast to coast autonomous trip in 2017.

In all the testing that both Google and Tesla have run so far, driverless vehicles have proven themselves to not only be just as good as humans at driving, but actually better in several cases. For example, their crash rate is lower than humans’, and in every case to date where the autonomous cars did get into an accident, it happened to be another car’s fault that hit the autonomous car from the side or behind.

A legal issue

The big issue with self-driving cars is legal. Who is supposed to be responsible if an autonomous car causes, or is part of, an accident? Is it the car’s manufacturer or the person in the car (even if they aren’t “driving”)? As you may imagine, adoption of driverless technology could take quite a while, as all these issues are sorted out. Needless to mention, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the country’s insurance companies are going to be very involved in discussions involving this sort of thing.

So when do I get to purchase an autonomous car?

Don’t begin planning quite yet. It’s still going to be five years or more before any state or federal agency signs up as the guinea pigs for autonomous vehicles on their streets. Yes, both Google and Tesla’s self-driving cars have outstanding driving records for the time being, and yes, they’ve already driven millions of miles but you know… people fear change, legislators doubly so.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes on this wonderful technology.

Article courtesy of: Reedman Toll Chrysler