Just for a change, let us venture away from the technology of personal computing and productivity, and into the automotive area. On-board computers have been getting smarter, just like hand held technology, so automotive manufacturers have had plenty of scope for adding new features like smart cruse control, automatic breaking and auto-park. Now those features have been taken a stage further so it is possible to see automotive autopilots becoming the future of personal transport.
Since it became known that Google has been using using driver-less cars for some time, a few things have happened. Firstly people have divided into two camps, those vociferously against the idea on all sort of grounds, and those for whom this technology could be start of the brave new world. Secondly, legislators have started to take notice. The US state of Nevada has set in motion Assembly Bill 511, which requires the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to write rules of the road for self-driving cars.
According to news announcements, Google’s fleet of six Toyota Priuses and an Audi TT drove more than 140,000 miles and almost all of them were on auto-pilot, though Google staff manned the cars but not the controls. The only incident occurred when a car driven by a person rear-ended one of Google’s cars. The trials were conducted with safety as paramount, and having informed local law enforcement, and each trip was preceded by a normally driven car recording the route to be traveled. Never the less this is a significant step forward in motor transport technology.
The knockers have had plenty of ground for resisting this particular advancement, including potential loss of jobs, issues of safety, challenge of unpredictable circumstance and personal resistance. One commentator puts it succinctly when he said (in the style of the American NRA) “You’ll have to pry my 5-speed manual transmission from my cold, dead hands.”! This attitude has been captured by marketing types, as one automotive manufacturer, Dodge, have even incorporated this resistance into their commercial for the new 2011 Charger, see below.
On the plus side, the expected advantages of this technology include potentially safer roads, less pollution, higher traffic density due to the elimination of human response times, and freeing up of personal time for the driver. It could even allow for platooning, which is a concept of grouping vehicles into platoons which decrease the distances between cars using electronic, and possibly mechanical coupling, as a method of increasing the capacity of roads. The idea is attractive to local government organizations responsible for roads as it does not require expensive road sensors to be be built into the carriageway, or special trackways like some earlier attempts at driver-less cars.
Whatever your point of view, this is a technology which has the potential to change the way we use the roads, and may make the future for personal transport completely different to everything which has gone before. Automotive Autopilots may be the future of personal travel.
For more on the subject of Google and their auto-piloted cars, see the following links:
- Googleblog What Were Driving At
- Nevada Takes Gamble on Driver-less Cars
- Google self-driving Prius gets into first accident, thanks to human error
- Driver-less Cars and Creative Destruction
- Google Auto-Pilot Car Breaks Traffic Law
If you want to see the 2011 Dodge Charger Commercial check out Dodge Rebels Against Robots in New 2011 Charger Commercial