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The Driverless Car Revolution Begins Now

A very mediatized Google driverless car seen zooming up and down the freeway in Silicon Valley has certainly attracted a lot of attention about what the future of driving might be like, but the real revolution of autonomous driving has already begun.

Driverless cars will not suddenly appear on the roads in 2020, when carmakers hope to begin offering autonomous or nearly autonomous production vehicles. Instead, cars will gradually add autonomous features during the coming years. Already, automakers offer some of these features in production cars. Mercedes leads the way for the moment with its commercially available Mercedes S-Class. It has also developed a working prototype of a driverless car, as have BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo, and, of course, Google.

“We already offer autonomous driving with existing sensors from the existing S-Class,” Johann Jungwirth, head of North American R&D at Mercedes, recently told me. “It is not science fiction anymore.”

Mercedes says the S-Class, which recently became available in the United States and Europe, becomes the co-pilot by taking over the steering and braking controls in certain situations. For example, the car will negotiate turns and steer around curves.

The Mercedes S-Class has several autonomous features, but the dashboard sportsa large red panic button, just in case.

The Mercedes S-Class has several autonomous features, but the dashboard sports
a large red panic button, just in case.

Braking is applied to one side of the car to prevent the driver from changing lanes when another car is passing in the blind spot. Thanks to a camera that scans the road surface in 3D behind and in front of the car, the car brakes when a collision is imminent. Cameras can also detect if a car in front of the vehicle the S-Class is following has stopped, or if there are obstacles ahead that the driver might not see.

A night vision system detects people and animals in the middle or on the side of the road. The car makes a distinction between the two by shining a spotlight on human pedestrians to warn both them and the driver. It does not do this for animals, since they can freeze up or react in a dangerous way when a bright light is shone on them.

Other carmakers are offering autonomous features. BMW's X5 (this month) and Mercedes's E-Class (next year) will offer hands-off driving in congested traffic areas. A BMW prototype that debuted a few years ago parked itself in a garage with a remote control as the driver stood outside. Other mainstream carmakers are expected to follow suit in the next 3-5 years.

Sensors, 3D cameras, and processor algorithms that can activate the steering, braking, and suspension without human input make driverless cars possible. Carmakers handle much of the algorithm development in-house, but automotive OEMs will increasingly rely on third-party suppliers for the development of mass-scale electronic components.

The advent of driverless cars will depend on technology and supply chain developments. Before totally autonomous vehicles are commercialized, suppliers such as Autoliv, Bosch, Continental, Siemens, and Valeo will need to offer carmakers cheaper and faster processors and imaging sensors. You can expect luxury cars with full-featured autonomous capabilities to debut first. The technology should eventually trickle down to mainstream models. One day, everyday models like your Ford Taurus or Toyota Corolla should be able to drive themselves off dealer lots.

26 comments on “The Driverless Car Revolution Begins Now

  1. _hm
    January 2, 2014

    Technology is all good in ideal or similar condition. However, real life what if scenario test drive will be really good.

    How can this car protect you when other car is old technology and non-smart? Will it make situation more complicated?

     

  2. Eldredge
    January 2, 2014

    I remember seeing a driverless car when I was a freshman in high school. I was on a bus trip, and witnessed the car passing the bus. That was in the 1970's.

      Turned out, the car was on a trailer, beng towed by another vehicle. Was it a premonition?

  3. Adeniji Kayode
    January 3, 2014

    _hm, As the article sayS-some of the features that would make up the driverless are begining to be seen in some cars. This is a sign that driverless cars will soon be a common thing.

  4. Wale Bakare
    January 5, 2014

    This is a very good  piece, captioned the important areas. Importantly, much of the driverless tasks would hinged on MCU ( Micro Controller Unit) and algorithms. That's integration of software protocols for effectiveness and efficiency intra-communications of MCU and other systems/sub-units – sensors and imaging cameras. Undoubtdly, driverless car would do job of non driverless vehicle – braking, trafficating and others.

  5. Wale Bakare
    January 5, 2014

    @Adeniji, i agree with you. And also, i think driverless technology would boost supply chain sector massively.

  6. Susan Fourtané
    January 6, 2014

    _hm 

    “How can this car protect you when other car is old technology and non-smart? Will it make situation more complicated?”

    What kind of situation do you have in mind? Smart cars have sensors. If there is an old car approaching at a high-speed and the smart car detects a possible impact it will stop. If you ask me, I trust more a smart car's sensors than the mainly irresponsible human driver. 

    -Susan

     

  7. _hm
    January 7, 2014

    @Susan: I wonder smart car people have driven car in countries like – China, India or Brazil. Car driving in this situation is highly unpredictable.

    Smart car will need car computer with AI similar or better compare to IBM Watson. Will they introduce smart car to developing countries too?

     

     

  8. ahdand
    January 7, 2014

    Im not sure how practical this will be. What happens if there is an emergency and the car has to be routed towards another direction ? How to do it ? 

  9. _hm
    January 7, 2014

    At some point, some driver (or another smart car) may ask to backup car for some resaon. Will smart car understand this? And how will it respond?

  10. Daniel
    January 7, 2014

    “Driverless cars will not suddenly appear on the roads in 2020, when carmakers hope to begin offering autonomous or nearly autonomous production vehicles. Instead, cars will gradually add autonomous features during the coming years.”

    Bruce, first thing is peoples are scared about driverless cars and such fears has to be address properly. I don't know how companies are going to address such issues; then only peoples are able to buy such vehiciles.

  11. Daniel
    January 7, 2014

    “I remember seeing a driverless car when I was a freshman in high school. I was on a bus trip, and witnessed the car passing the bus. That was in the 1970's.”

    Eldredge, in 70's!! that means it's an old technology and so far hadn't fruitful.

  12. SP
    January 8, 2014

    What seems to be impossible and in dreams now…will become a reality in the future. Driverless cars will become real as are robots going to be. Of course its preprogrammed and would expect a good infrastructure in place. Lets not forget with the advancement of technology we hardly see humans talking to each other. Soon one can have a robot friend to share emotions..then why not driverless cars…

  13. Eldredge
    January 8, 2014

    @Jacob,

       Back in the 70's, the technolgy involved pulling a car on a trailer, and once I realized that was the case, my awe subsided. Now, the driverless car is real, and I find that pretty amazing! 🙂

  14. Eldredge
    January 8, 2014

    Reminiscient of some sci fi short stories I remember reading by Isaac Asimov. On the dark side, think what could happen if someone hacked into systems that were guidign drverless cars.

  15. Daniel
    January 8, 2014

    “What seems to be impossible and in dreams now…will become a reality in the future. Driverless cars will become real as are robots going to be. Of course its preprogrammed and would expect a good infrastructure in place. Lets not forget with the advancement of technology we hardly see humans talking to each other. Soon one can have a robot friend to share emotions..then why not driverless cars…”

    SP, there is no doubt that “Today's Imagination is Tomorrow's Technology”. Our peoples are capable for producing or transforming all such imaginations to reality. In case of driverless cars, technology is ready but lacking in infrastructures. I mean good roads, better GPS based communication facilities etc.

  16. Daniel
    January 9, 2014

    “Back in the 70's, the technolgy involved pulling a car on a trailer, and once I realized that was the case, my awe subsided. Now, the driverless car is real, and I find that pretty amazing! :)”

    Elderg, good example of driverless car (pulling a car on a trailer). Its just something like train car; car attaching to a running train for VIP travelling

  17. Susan Fourtané
    January 12, 2014

    _hm,

    What do you mean by unpredictable? 

    -Susan  

  18. Susan Fourtané
    January 12, 2014

     Eldredge, 

    Is hacking the first thing that comes to your mind? 🙁 

    -Susan

  19. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    January 16, 2014

    @_HM, i have to think that at least in early days that something is better than nothing. I've seen the google car in my neighborhood and it seemed to go along with other cars without a hitch.

  20. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    January 17, 2014

    @Adeniji said: “some of the features that would make up the driverless are begining to be seen in some cars.”

    To your point, a number of years ago, high end cars started boasting about this automatic parallel parking feature. This would have been an early start on the self driving. I remember thinking it would be hard to trust the car. Someday, though, we'll think nothing of it.

  21. _hm
    January 17, 2014

    @Hailey: Please send Google car to Canadaian winter. Blowing snow, near zero visibiity, ice and snow on car, road with full of snow. If it drives 100 kms without collinsion, I will believe in technology.

     

  22. Wale Bakare
    January 18, 2014

    >>Please send Google car to Canadaian winter. Blowing snow, near zero visibiity, ice and snow on car, road with full of snow. If it drives 100 kms without collinsion, I will believe in technology<<

    Yes, larger parts of driverless car functionality hings on public telecommunications infrastructure. Still, i believe improvement on driverless technologies would make cars work in snow unless, in an extreme weather incident/natural disasters.

  23. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    January 24, 2014

    @_HM, smart people and smart cars don't go out in that kind of weather. 🙂

  24. Adeniji Kayode
    January 26, 2014

    @_hm, Around such conditions, you may not expect much from driveles car for now but later development will able to handle such harsh conditions.

  25. Adeniji Kayode
    January 26, 2014

    @Hailey, you are right on that but such weather condition are peculiar to some part of the world. Do we say such places should not bother venturing into such car.

  26. _hm
    January 26, 2014

    @Adeniji: Yes, it has little far to go and will take more time. But it is very good effort.

     

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