It’s been something out of a dream of science-fiction for more than half a century now but self-driving cars are no longer just a fantasy. Imagine communicating with your car like you would communicate with Siri on your iPhone. Tell it “take me to work,” and it does exactly that.
Automatic Technology Today
As Russ Rader, senior v.p. Of communications at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety pointed out,
“The building blocks of driverless cars are on the road now.” He pointed to the prevention systems that for several years now have been able to give drivers warning when there’s an impending obstacle and apply the brakes for them if they can’t react fast enough.
Following the automatic brakes comes a technology that allows cars to self-park. It works by sizing up a free spot and automatically steering your car into it. All you have to do is control the accelerator and brake pedals.
Mercedes-Benz then took the technology even further, developing a system that could steer your car on the highway in certain circumstances.
Google Inc. has said that it would have an integrated system ready to market by 2017. Every other major automotive manufacturer is estimated to follow this trend into the early 2020s. Though their systems are said to be more sensor-based and rely less on networking and access to map information. Google will license the software and systems and leave the manufacturing to the car companies.
Semi-Autonomous Near-Future (2016-2020)
All it would require for the E-Class and its new Drive Pilot function to work would be a software update. The update would make it mostly, but not fully, autonomous. It’s so close to being ready that Mercedes-Benz is already testing versions of the E-class on public roads.
Tesla and Volvo are also getting involved with semi-autonomous cars. Both have fairly advanced semi-autonomous features and even more companies are expected to add these systems to their cars.
The semi-autonomous cars are expected to be at the high end of the price spectrum at first with the system most easily being hidden in the more expensive models of cars.
Fully Autonomous Medium-Future (2020-2025)
Driverless cars are coming and coming soon. IHS Automotive predicts these cars will come after 2020 but before 2025, but who will be the first to release one?
All hands point to Google bringing the first fully autonomous technology to market. Google has a massive ongoing investment and has the ability to draw from adjacent technologies. Those include everything from artificial intelligence and robotics to detailed global maps.
Car services such as Uber, Lyft, and others have shown interest in fully autonomous cars. Uber in particular has invested quite heavily in autonomous-vehicle research like those being done at Carnegie Mellon University. Automakers like Ford and General Motors are preparing for a day where using an autonomous car doesn’t mean you have to own that car.
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