August 15, 2012

AS A FATHER OF TEENS AND SON OF SENIORS, "HASTEN THE DAY":

Who needs a license? Self-driving cars coming our way (Reuters, August 15, 2012)

While most industry officials don't envision a fully self-driving, or autonomous, vehicle before 2025, features such as adaptive cruise control or traffic jam assist that automatically slow or apply the brakes for a car in certain situations are already being introduced. And much like anti-lock brakes became the norm after initial resistance, these new technologies will prepare drivers for a future where they are needed less.

"The whole concept of a car being able to drive itself is pretty profound," said Larry Burns, GM's former research and development chief and an adviser for Google's self-driving car project. "This is the most transformational play to hit the auto industry in 125 years."

The progress has been in the making for decades as GM's Firebird II, introduced in 1956, included a system to work with an electrical wire embedded in the highway to guide the car. Three years later, the rocket-like Cyclone boasted an autopilot system that steered the car and radar in front nose cones that warned of a collision and automatically applied the brakes.

However, the pace of invention has quickened, with such automakers as GM, Ford Motor Co, Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG developing technologies to help drivers avoid accidents. Some even envision a future where today's cars are more amusement.

"In the same way we all used to travel on horses and now horses are entertainment, you could imagine automobiles driven by people becoming more entertainment," said Chris Urmson, the Google program's technical head.

Posted by at August 15, 2012 9:39 AM
  

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