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Just a day after Google was awarded a driver’s license for its self-driving car, the tech giant brought one of its autonomous Toyota Prius out to Washington D.C. in hopes to make driverless cars legal in the United States.
It appears that Google made its way to the nation’s capital in hopes to appeal to federal policymakers and to maybe convince some to take a ride in its self-driving Prius. We’ve already seen what it can do for a blind man, and Google’s main focus right now is to prove its benefits to lawmakers. For the most part, Google is confident in the technology developed in its self-driving cars, its biggest concern now is for the public to widely accept the benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road.
But of course, the U.S. government has been officially tight-lipped on the issue of autonomous vehicles with the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology stating that it had no knowledge of Google’s plans of operating its Prius out in D.C.
The state of Nevada has just become the first to issue a driver’s license to a car.
The vehicle in question is Google’s autonomous Toyota Prius, which company engineers have been testing on California roads for the past two years, logging 140,000 miles with just one traffic-incident. That accident, caused when a car driven by a person bumped into the back of the autonomous car, is just the sort of thing Google intends to dramatically reduce or even eliminate with its revolutionary technology.
The car uses video cameras as well as radar and laser sensors to “see” as well as impressive computing power to control the vehicle’s next function, adapting to a rapidly changing environment. During the entire testing process Google engineers have been on hand in the vehicle in case human intervention became necessary.
Google’s driverless car has been issued a red license plate, with an infinity sign on it next to the number 001.
While the first, Nevada may soon be joined by California, which recently introduced similar legislation to introduce autonomous driving to the state’s busy freeways.
With Google’s driverless cars making headlines, the public sentiment towards autonomous driving technology appears to be on the rise with a new J.D. Power study revealing that 37% of American vehicle owners are interested in such systems.
Part of the findings in the larger 2012 US Emerging Technologies Study, it’s less of an endorsement of cars that drive themselves completely, and more of a reflection of how consumers regard partial-autonomus driving aides where the car, at times, takes over control. Examples of such technologies include Volvo’s Full Auto Brake feature that can bring the car to a complete stop if a potential crash is detected, or even Lane Keeping and Blind Spot systems that will pull a car back into its lane in certain cases.
When owners were informed that the cost of such technologies could add $3,000 to the price of a car 20% still said they “definitely would” or “probably would” purchase such features in their next vehicle.
A car that drives itself might seem cool — until you realize it’s probably a Toyota Prius. What if you prefer something a more upscale automated chauffeur? It seems Google feels the same way by giving a Lexus RX450h the autonomous treatment.
The vehicle was spotted testing in Southern California and seems to be sporting a different sensor than some other autonomous vehicles Google used in the past. This unit seems smaller and a little more aerodynamic.
“In the course of our work, we experiment with testing our algorithms on various vehicles to help us improve our technology,” Google told Wired, essentially saying they’re progressing to a variety of vehicles.
Who knows when autonomous vehicles start making their way into dealerships, but a bill passed last week has made California a bit more friendly to self driving cars.
Self-driving cars aren’t new, but if electric vehicles’ slow adoption rates among U.S. consumers are any measure of new technology acceptance then autonomous cars can’t be close at hand, or can they?
According to a speech given by Larry Burns, former General Motors research and development head, we can expect such technology by 2020. Unless you’ve been ignoring auto news, that sentence might seem strange. We already have cars that drive themselves, even to Taco Bell drive-through windows, courtesy of Google.
What’s the real benefit to autonomous cars? To be able to eat your Taco Bell Cheesy Gordita Crunch while it drives you to your destination of course.
In all seriousness, Google’s self-driving car just did its biggest and best promotional video yet. The autonomous Toyota Prius shuttled around Steve Mahan, a legally blind man, through a day of errands.
Google’s self-driving Prius has completed over 200,000 miles of computer-led travel and one of their favorite moments was a carefully programmed route for Steve Mahan to show off the benefits of autonomous vehicles. While this was mostly a technical experiment in Google’s eyes, we believe it opens up the rest of the world’s eyes on just how beneficial the technology could be if safety standards could be met.
Without ever touching the pedals or steering wheel, the legally blind Steve Mahan got to enjoy some Taco Bell drive-through and was able to pick up his dry cleaning, something he wouldn’t have been able to do on his own having lost 95 percent of his vision. Steve Mahan was also labeled as self-driving car user #0000000001 by Google.
According to the end of the video, it was created with the assistance of the Morgan Hill Police Department and the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center in San Jose, California.
While its a good thing for the blind, the world had better be careful. If this goes too far, steering might be considered exercise.
Check out the video of Steve Mahan driven around after the break.
A major step towards self-driving cars, Volvo has announced its first successful test of what it calls a “road train”. As a part of the SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project, a test fleet of cars fitted with special equipment becomes a caravan of sorts, bunching up behind a lead vehicle and acting as a single “attached” unit – much like a train on tracks.
The driver, by giving over control of their vehicle to the train, can then use the time spent commuting to talk on the phone or eat. Being a Volvo initiative, this is more than just a convenience feature and something Volvo believes will significantly improve the safety on our roads by reducing the human potential for error. In addition, by regulating the driving and helping reduce or avoid the bunch-ups of stop-and-go traffic, it’s also a more fuel efficient method of travel. In fact, Volvo expects road trains to improve efficiency by up to 20 percent.
Volvo’s successful test included three cars following a lead truck at speeds of up to 90 km/h (56 mph), with 6 meters (roughly 20 feet) of space between each car.
“The aim is for the entire road train to be completed in autumn 2012. By then we will have four vehicles after one lead vehicle driving at 90 km/h,” says Erik Coelingh, technical project manager at the Volvo Car Corporation.
Designed to work on normal highways with other traffic, the SARTRE project is also studying what infrastructure changes would need to take place in order to bring road trains to European highways, not to mention issues of local laws and the tricky liability issue.
GALLERY: Volvo Road Train Test
Google’s mission towards to mass market autonomous vehicles took another step forward this week when they were granted a patent for a method of controlling the self-driving car. The patent details how the vehicle can transition from being human-driven to autonomous mode.
The technology raises an interesting thought, where the car could transition to autonomous mode on a section of road that’s dedicated to self-driving cars. Obviously we’re quite a ways out from having all of our roads populated with autonomous vehicles, but by being able to recognize a bar code or a radio tag, a vehicle could switch modes safely – especially knowing that all the vehicles around it are using the same technology.
While a lot of people are skeptical as to why Google is even pursuing this endeavor, we believe in the sake of pushing technology forward, Google is doing everyone a favor. Google of course stands by their desire to ”help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time, and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use.”
Even cooler is the fact that the patent outlines how a vehicle could receive instructions from an Internet address over a wireless network. This could be pretty scary in the wrong hands, that’s for sure. We’re still waiting for the day that our Toyota Prius drives itself to a nearby McDonald’s while telling us the specials that it has for that day. Talk about the possibility of intrusive advertising.
It’s a scary thought for many, the idea that a car will one day most probably drive itself. We’ve already seen the proliferation of driver aids in the last 20 odd years, from anti-lock brakes, to stability control and more recently, features such as adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance systems.
As a result, the idea of a driverless car has become closer to reality with each passing day. To find out just how nervous motorists might be at the thought of an autonomous vehicle, the US Department of Transportation has decided to conduct a little experiment, outfitting a number of cars with equipment which allows them to talk to teach other. It will then take the vehicles to the test track and simulate tsituations such as potential accident situations, including head on collisions.
The DOT wants to judge drivers reactions when the vehicles intervene and take control. Automakers participating in the US program include Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Volkswagen.
In other parts of the world similar tests are planned, including driveless cars taking to the streets in Germany and on the race track in Belgium. Ladies and Gentlemen, it appears the age of ‘real’ Big Brother motoring may soon be upon us.
[Source: Automotive News]
A state made famous on for its loose laws and even looser morality, you can now add another item to the list of things you’re allowed to do in Nevada: ride along in a driverless car.
Thanks to the passing of Bill No. 511, Nevada is the first state to allow Google’s autonomous cars. The vehicles aren’t permitted to operate on Nevada state streets yet, however, as the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles first must draw up the exact rules governing the cars.
The vehicles, which currently total a dozen Toyota Priuses and one Audi TT use laser range finders and video camera, as well as maps to guide their way. Driver’s just have to input a destination using a GPS system and the car will find its own way there.
Google has been lobbying the Nevada state legislature, claiming the vehicles will pollute less and cause fewer collisions (not to mention injuries and deaths) than vehicles operated by humans.
With the bill passed, Google is also lobbying to push through an amendment to current texting while driving laws, that would allow texting for those behind the wheel of a driverless car.
The change in the law in Nevada may also benefit Volkswagen, which recently showed-off a new Temporary Auto Pilot technology, that it claims is nearly production ready.
Following the news of Google’s self-driving car, there’s news that the German’s have been working on a pretty cool idea – an autonomous car controlled by an iPad.
This latest addition to the market, brought to you by the AutoNOMOS Labs project at Germany’s Freire University, combines a modified Volkswagen Passat that is equipped with sensors, GPS, radar and scanners, along with an iPad app that relays coordinates and other user information to the car. The test vehicle in question is a taxi – no word on why this type of technology is being used on a taxi service, but it is an interesting concept.
Watch the video after the jump.
UPDATE: Audi’s official statement below
Jalopnik is reporting that an Audi commercial shoot at Pikes Peak took a tragic turn after a helicopter crashed during filming. Reports say that the pilot is in critical condition with the other three passengers injured as well.
The commercial apparently involved the autonomous TTS, with the helicopter filming the driverless car as it made its way up Pikes Peak. We’ll have more on the story as information becomes available. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.
It’s always been a goal of mine to learn how to slide into a parking spot, similar to how all the cool guys do it in Hollywood blockbusters. It’s a totally frivolous thing to master, and the chances of ever being able to use it are negligible. In any case, it looks like it will become a totally obsolete party trick now that robots can do it too.
Yes, that’s right. Robots. Stanford University and Volkswagen have had a long partnership in developing autonomous vehicles, fancy speak for cars that drives themselves. As the video explains, making a car go straight on its own isn’t too difficult, but turning is a little bit tougher. Sliding the car is a whole other operation in itself, as the handling characteristics are vastly more unpredictable. Evidently, the Stanford researchers have found a way around this, and have put together a couple neat videos to explain the process in layman’s terms.
Video after the jump