Self-Driving Cars In The Spotlight at 2015 SAE Conference

Self-driving cars are at the center of attention at this year’s Society of Automotive Engineers conference in Detroit.

Several SAE panels this year focused on the legal, technical and safety issues surrounding self-driving cars with Ray Kurzweil, inventor and director of engineering at Google, starting his keynote address by mentioning that vehicle crashes kill 1.2-million people worldwide each year. According to Kurzweil, autonomous vehicles won’t arrive until the technology is “exponentially safer than the alternative, but it’s coming. It’s not far away.” The Google employee also shared that researchers are developing microscopic fuel cells that are so small “you can put millions of them in a very small space and create very inexpensive, very powerful energy storage with a very high energy-to-size ratio.”

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Vehicle sensors were also a topic of discussion with Pat Bassett, vice president for North American research and engineering at Denso, saying that future vehicles “will need to be able to evaluate driver status, including habits, attention, stress level and mood.” Denso is currently working on sensors that can read a driver’s attention level though facial-image processing. Experts at the SAE conference also believe that owners will be able to toggle autonomous driving on and off, but believe that self-driving cars will be more popular in the future.