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Whether you like it or not, self-driving cars are coming.
Rinspeed is going to give us a glimpse of the future automotive world at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show with its XchangE electric touring sedan.
Adaptive cruise control, emergency brake assist and blind-spot monitoring were the stuff of science fiction just a decade ago, but today these features are available on many reasonably priced, mass-market vehicles. Pushing driver assistance even further, Continental is developing a suite of advanced technologies with some pretty amazing capabilities.
Electric cars are often viewed as the personal transportation solution for the future, though a team of researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK is looking beyond that, to vehicles that drive themselves. And they’ve come up with a prototype that costs far less than you might expect.
Traffic, inclement weather and road construction add up to headaches and frustration for motorists. According to automotive supplier company Continental the typical driver spends an average 50 minutes per day commuting to work. Add it up and that’s roughly 300 hours per year that could be spent doing more productive things.
While active cruise control already exists in production vehicles, these systems use sensors and cameras to see what is coming, limiting them when it comes to knowing what is over the next hill or around the next bend. This problem is driving companies such as Mercedes-Benz to develop car-to-car communication devices.
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.
A dizzying line of taillights that goes on for miles is enough to ruin anyone’s day. Pressure mounts in your temples and your skull feels like it’s going to crack. Welcome to the traffic jam migraine.
Don’t worry though, the commuter’s burden will eventually be a thing of the past. If there’s one thing luxury cars are good at doing, it’s showing us technology we can expect in econo-boxes years down the road. One of the latest features found at the forefront of cool luxury tech could stand to silence screams from angry drivers stuck in traffic: autonomous driving.
BMW is showcasing a video on YouTube that gives details on their highly-automated driving mode, which essentially drives the car for you.
Nico Kaempchen, the project manager behind the technology, explains that the car will fully take over driving under certain circumstances, but that the driver remains in control at all times. During that period, the car takes advantage of four different sensor systems to stay on track: radar, cameras, laser scanners and ultrasonics.
It’s not as simple as gluing a few sensors onto a 5-Series and hitting the road. Kaempchen tells us in the video that they need to map each road out that the car drove itself on down to the very inch (or centimeter as he says it).
BMW isn’t the only manufacturer to play with the idea of a car that drives itself. On January 24 we published a story about Volvo testing similar technology in what they call a road-train. Of course for Volvo to be involved it had to do with more than convenience. Their iteration involves a self-piloted convoy that can interact with independent traffic with the goal of making the road safer.
BMW ends their video by saying that the research they conducted will go towards improving already existent systems like their Traffic Jam Assistant. We’re not sure how far to look into the future for mass production, but rest assured when it’s here we’ll have a different outlook on traffic jams. You can watch the video below.
It might be a scary thought to some, but according to Alan Taub, vice president of Global Research and Development at General Motors, the self-driving car is less than a decade away.
Advances in technologies such as sensors, portable communications devices, radars, GPS systems and cameras, collectively make the idea more feasible now than ever before.
During a speech at the Transport Systems World Congress in Orlando, Florida yesterday, Taub declared that, “the technologies [GM is] developing will provide an added convenience by partially or even completely taking over the driving duties. The primary goal, though, is safety. Future generation safety systems will eliminate the crash altogether by interceding on behalf of drivers before they’re even aware of a hazardous situation.”
In fact, some of the technologies Taub talked about can already be found on current GM production vehicles, such as a lane departure warning and crash avoidance system via a front mounted camera which is standard on the 2012 GMC Terrain crossover. A blindspot alert system is also fitted to a number of the General’s SUVs, including the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, Cadillac Escalade, as well as the Buick LaCrosse sedan.
In addition, GM is working on more advanced systems, such as vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure communication setups, where sensors gather information from other vehicles, pedestrians, buildings, obstructions, roadways, even traffic signals to warn drivers of potential hazards ahead, such as slippery road conditions, stalled or crashed vehicles or busy or dangerous intersections. Such systems can be added as apps to portable devices such as smart phones which wirelessly connect to the car, or are embedded in the vehicle itself.
In addition, GM is working on its next generation EN-V urban concept vehicle which combines GPS with vehicle to vehicle communications and distance sensing technology. This latest EN-V is designed to enable fully autonomous driving, incorporating such features as collision avoidance, platooning even automated parking and retrieval.
The idea is that one day, city dwellers will have a personal transportation device that will be able drop off its driver, park itself and then be summoned when needed, simply via a command on the driver’s smart phone.
A report out of Europe claims that BMW and General Motors are collaborating on a system that will scan road signs, including speed limit warnings and relay the information to drivers. The system still has a few kinks being worked out, but the objective is for the system to be able to display warning signs as well as speed limits for any road the car is being driven on.
Technology like this might add a little pizazz to an otherwise unremarkable car, but there’s certainly the prospect of a slippery slope with this sort of system. Invasive speed limits mandated by the government might not be far off, and that could quickly spell an end to one of the greatest pleasures of driving, the complete autonomy one has when behind the wheel of a car.
In any sort of scientific test, it’s important is to control the conditions to make sure that any variables are neutralized, and that the experiments can be repeated with consistent results. An experiment that gives the same data over and over again can usually be seen as an accurate way of obtaining information on a subject.
As a means of reducing human error, Mercedes-Benz is utilizing automated drivers, using special ”robots” that are capable of steering, braking and using the throttle (seen above). Unlike Volkswagen, the robots cannot drive themselves “autonomously”, but rather they follow a specific pattern to drive around a closed course. Mercedes-Benz engineers have an override switch to shut down the cars as well.
The robots allow Mercedes-Benz engineers to test the cars using drivers that have better reaction times and are more consistent than human drivers. This in turn lets the engineers get better data to use when developing the cars, as well as information on how they should behave in potentially dangerous situations without putting human life at risk.
No word on the cost of these systems, but you can bet that it’s more than your house.
Official release after the jump: