March 4, 2012

DRIVING MISS DISTRACTED:

The Car of the Future Will Drive You: A truly auto-mobile is coming if liability laws don't stop it. (L. GORDON CROVITZ, 3/04/12, WSJ)

Mr. Ford outlined a future of what the auto industry calls "semiautonomous driving technology," meaning increasingly self-driving cars. Over the next few years, cars will automatically be able to maintain safe distances, using networks of sensors, V-to-V (vehicle-to-vehicle) communications and real-time tracking of driving conditions fed into each car's navigation system.

This will limit the human error that accounts for 90% of accidents. Radar-based cruise control will stop cars from hitting each other, with cars by 2025 driving themselves in tight formations Mr. Ford describes as "platoons," cutting congestion as the space between cars is reduced safely.

This is not as far-fetched as it may sound. The electronics in high-end cars already run 100 million lines of computer code--more than the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Self-driving cars developed by Google are becoming a regular sight around Silicon Valley. Google engineers describe automating driving as just another information problem: With enough sensors and detailed digital maps of roads, algorithms should be able to make computer-driven cars safer than human-driven cars.

The February issue of Wired magazine has an evocative description of a ride in a Google test car driving itself along a California highway. Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book "Traffic," writes: "After a few minutes the idea of a computer-driven car seemed much less terrifying than the panorama of indecision, BlackBerry-fumbling, rule-flouting, and other vagaries of the humans around us--including the weaving driver who struggled to film us as he passed."

Posted by at March 4, 2012 6:37 PM
  

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