If you’re a regular driver on the nation’s highways, you’ll know that there are certain people who ought not to be allowed to drive. Cutting back and forth between lanes and passing unsafely, tailgating and other aggressive driving moves put everyone on the road at risk. While we may never be able to rid the world of such drivers, perhaps technology can help solve the problem of truly bad drivers.
Carmakers are banking that the long-term future of the automotive market is cars that drive themselves. Daimler's Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Nissan and Volvo are all said to be working on autonomous driving technology. While a car that can drive itself from point A to point B with no human intervention may be a long way off, the earliest generation of autonomous cars is nearly here…if you have the cash.
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Mercedes will soon be introducing an add-on called "Stop&Go Pilot" that will be available in its top-of-the-line S-class sedan. The feature is comprised of 12 ultrasonic detectors, five cameras and six radar sensors that together allow the car to match the speed of the vehicle in front of it, even coming to a complete stop and steering to stay in the lane. The autonomous feature will run about €2,678 (about $3,500) in Germany, according to Automotive News Europe. BMW and Volvo are said to be very close to a roll-out of similar technology. Even more compelling, Volkswagen Group's Audi is said to be working on a technology that will ultimately allow a driver to exit the car at the entrance of a parking garage, leaving the vehicle to find a vacant spot on its own. Reaching full autonomy, however, will take time.
"Autonomous drive won't come as a revolution overnight," Jochen Hermann, director of driver-assistance systems at Mercedes, told Automotive News Europe. "The driver needs to get used to the technology."
Google (News - Alert) has been pursuing the concept of a driverless car for years. While the company has a number of prototypes, a true driverless car is said to be years off. (For starters, most state laws likely won’t permit them yet. Nevada, where Google does a lot of its testing, is an exception.) Obviously, Google doesn’t plan to become an automaker. Instead, it plans to develop the systems involved and then market the technology to automobile manufacturers. The costs need to come down, first: it is estimated that the equipment to make the Google prototype driverless cars runs around $150,000: far outside of most car buyers’ budgets.
Late last month, it was revealed that Google is moving forward with a “Robo Taxi” concept that would use driverless cars to pick up passengers and work commuters on demand (possibly through a mobile app) reducing the need for people to own their own cars.
Edited by Alisen Downey