In last week’s Future Friday post, I mentioned how I dreamed of flying cars. While that idea is somewhere far in the distance, driverless cars are not. I remember a couple of years ago my friend came to me and said, “Google is so cool, and their campus has cars that drive themselves.” I thought she was joking… until I Googled it. You can about its first appearance here (from 2010!).
Are you wondering about how it works? It’s all about the technology – it uses “video cameras, radar sensors, and a laser range finder to see other traffic as well as detailed maps to navigate the road ahead.” While this particular driverless technology is in the works, there are other driverless technologies that are in our cars right now. You’ve seen the self-parking systems, the cars that can parallel park themselves. By using sensors, they find a space big enough to fit, alert the driver that it found one, and then take control of the steering using sensors to guide the car into place.
According to the World Health Organization, in 2010, more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents. This is why safety is a priority for engineers, city-planners, and researchers who are working on the driverless car. They believe in the potential safety advantages because they believe with successful features like automated emergency braking (application of brakes if you get too close to a car ahead of you), adaptive cruise control (speeding or slowing the car based on the speed of surrounding traffic), and lane-departure systems (scanning the sides of the roads and should the driver veer, the car will steer in the opposite direction).
It is predicted that by 2016, the automated emergency braking system will be able to apply its brakes from speeds of 20-25 mph and highway speeds by 2020. This doesn’t mean you can take a nap while you’re in your car, but 100% of your attention will not be needed. The future of driverless cars looks bright. The UK recently announced that they would be testing driverless cars on their public roads by the end of this year. This could change everything.
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