(PRWEB) September 21, 2012
The wave of the future: Self driving cars
Self driving cars will likely be the dominant form of personal transportation in the future, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
The automobiles, also known as robotic or autonomous vehicles, will comprise up to 75 percent of cars on the road by the year 2040, the institute predicts.
Working toward the future, several automobile manufacturers, including General Motors, Audi and BMW, are currently testing autonomous vehicle systems. In a 2011 news release, Alan Taub, vice president of global research and development, says GM could put self driving cars on the road by the end of the decade.
Internet giant Google has been involved in the testing of self driving cars, using a modified Toyota Prius. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles issued the first license for an autonomous vehicle in May of this year, primarily to allow Google to its experimental model.
Under the hood
Self driving cars use radar, GPS and built-in cameras to navigate the road. Information about obstacles, traffic signals and signage is sent to the vehicle's computer system, which then uses the data to create a map. The map is updated as the driver moves along the road, to aid in safe navigation even through unfamiliar territory.
Infrastructure concerns have been seen as the biggest obstacle to widespread use of self driving cars, according to the institute. Early advocates of the concept wondered if roadways would have to be redesigned for self driving cars to operate safely.
Advances in technology, however, have eased such concerns. Sophisticated sensors will allow for better traffic control. Future autonomous vehicle systems will not only monitor road conditions, they will be able to communicate with other vehicles on the road, according to the institute.
Vehicle intercommunication will mean more free-flowing traffic and eliminate the need for traffic lights, signs and even speed limits.
Because self driving cars will be separated by sensors, they will be able to safely travel on highways, even moving at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, according to Dr. Aberto Broggi, an institute senior member and professor of computer engineering at the University of Parma in Italy.
And because the vehicles will be automatic, anyone will be able to use a car, regardless of age or ability, according to the institute. Drivers licenses could become a thing of the past.
Driving toward the future
Getting drivers to accept self driving cars will be a challenge, according to Jeffrey Miller, an institute member and computer systems associate professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Drivers may be reluctant to give up control of their cars and adopt a new type of transportation.
To that end, the features car manufacturers have been adding to their current models will go a long way to easing drivers' concerns, Miller says.
Many automobile models today have systems designed to allow automatic parallel parking and automatic braking. Some vehicles help drivers stay awake during long trips and some have sensors that monitor the area around the automobile, sending an alert when the driver gets too close to an obstacle beside or behind the vehicle.
Further innovations in automation today will make it easier for drivers to adopt self driving cars in the future, Miller says.