As some of you may know, the International CES exhibition has been underway this week in sunny Las Vegas. For those of you who don’t, the International CES exhibition is an event where many prototypes and future technological wonders are revealed to the world by many leading and emerging companies from around the world. Some of these prototypes range from large structures to tiny hand held products, from the useful to the downright bizarre. But two of the same kind of product has taken the press by surprise.
Both Toyota and Audi have unveiled their latest prototypes in the motoring world. Self driving cars.
Now the concept of having a car drive all by itself has been in use for many decades. However due to insufficient computing power and technology, the idea has always been left into the world of science fiction. However this idea soon became a reality when Google created their own prototype self driving car several years ago. However the reason why it didn’t fully take off was simply due to the company’s lack of, well, car manufacturing. So in the end, it was purely a demonstration that it can be done.
However it is Toyota/Lexus and Audi’s turn and boy have they delivered. Although the technology used is the same as the Google car, both companies have stated that they have used their own technology to make their prototypes. No deal was made to Google whatsoever.
So what technology do these cars hold? Well to start off, the most noticeable feature of both cars are their large cylindrical radars on the roof. These radars spin around at a fast rate, mapping the surrounding environment and updating the car’s computer every split second, telling it where every other car or structure is located around it. The car’s computer then calculates the speed and distance it needs in order to slow down or speed up safely. As for steering, cameras (or lasers) are used to navigate roads and overtake vehicles. Again the data is transferred to the central computer which in turn transfers it into actions.
This new concept is becoming noticed and desired so fast, that we could eventually be using them by 2019, which could then drastically lower the percentage of casualties on the road. This could also bring vast benefits to people such as a way of getting back home after a night out at the bar, driving to the hospital after a certain accident or even sleep in the drivers seat when on an overnight road trip.
Because of this new automated function, speed limits on dual-carriageways (Avenues to you Americans) or even Motorways could be lifted, making road trips much faster and more reliable. Roundabouts and traffic light junctions will run much smoother and navigating country roads in bad weather will be easy.
The use of these cars could also reduce road crime such as speeding or dangerous driving. However there could be an override function for those who want to drive themselves, thus possibly ruling out this idea. (Although at that point in time, roads may be strictly controlled with a fast flow of traffic, thus rendering manual control very difficult…Think of the cars in I.Robot)
I for one am looking forward to this technology. I’ve been in a few collisions and the experience isn’t nice. But having the car drive itself to and from places such as school or work will allow people more time to prepare themselves or have a little rest after a long day. Even children could possibly ‘drive themselves’ to school. (However I would wait until the technology is well over 90% reliable and childproof.
Overall if you add this technology with hydrogen fueled cars, you will then have a 99.9% reliable car which powers and performs just as well as a petrol-driven car with minimal running costs and 0% emissions! The ultimate car of the early 21st century! Or in the later stage of life when anti-gravity technology is cracked, a safe and reliable flying car… although that won’t be until the 2070′s at the earliest scientific predictions.