Like it or not, self-driving cars are the future of personal transportation. A diverse group of global companies ranging from Volvo to Google are feverishly developing systems to enable autonomous autos.
The technology just took another step closer to becoming a reality as Continental has become the first automotive supplier to receive approval from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to test self-driving cars on public roads in the state.
To earn this special status the German corporation had to complete a driving demonstration for Nevada’s Autonomous Review Committee, which also evaluated their safety plans, system functions and accident reporting mechanisms, among other things.
Continental will receive a special red license plate emblazoned with an infinity symbol to use on its appropriately named “Highly Automated Vehicle.” The marker serves two purposes. First, it shows that the car it’s attached to is a vehicle of the future, and second it’s easily recognizable by other motorists and law-enforcement officials.
The company’s Highly Automated Vehicle is outfitted with a battery of radar sensors and cameras, many of which are already available on the market. But it’s also designed to have a driver behind the wheel to keep an eye on things. So far the car has racked up more than 15,000 miles.
Public roads are probably the most challenging environment to test self-driving vehicles in, but the data gained from real-world evaluations is priceless and will go a long way to advancing the technology.
Dr. Elmar Degenhart, chairman of the executive board of Continental said partially autonomous systems could be ready for prime time by 2016, while full autonomy could take a few years longer, hitting the road around 2020 or 2025.
As a global supplier, Continental offers a huge assortment of products ranging from tires and turbochargers to circuit boards and safety systems. The breadth and depth of its portfolio is an asset in its push to develop self-driving cars.