Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Self driving cars on the way

Self driving cars seemed like science fiction not so long ago….now they seem well on the way.
A story in Popular Science (here) points out that 6 major auto manufacturers have officially put autonomous vehicles in their research and development programs.  And Google continues to dazzle us with what their test cars can do.
But once again Elon Musk and Tesla are way out in front in putting new technology on the road.  Tesla (see story here) says their Autopilot technology is still a long way from actual driverless cars.  But new Model S cars have “forward radar, 12 long range ultrasonic sensors positioned to sense 16 feet around the car in every direction at all speeds, a forward looking camera, and a high precision, digitally controlled electric assist braking system.”  As the software comes online, the Tesla will be able to keep in its lane, change lanes with a tap of the turn signal, slow or speed up to stay within speed limits and keep safe distances, and so on.  Very soon, according to Musk, the Tesla owner will be able to summon the car, which will open the garage and drive up to you, already heated and with your favorite radio station on.
Maybe not self-driving but getting pretty darn close!

And in the transportation world, we still need to figure out how to make this rapidly developing technology work with our infrastructure and regulatory systems.