The driverless vehicles that are commonplace in science fiction films are no longer the fantastical concepts they once seemed. In the past decade, several automotive manufacturers and technological organisations have achieved ground breaking advancement in the field of autonomous vehicles. From innovative braking systems to valet parking capabilities, these breakthroughs hint towards a future wherein driverless vehicles are commonplace.
For instance, multinational organisation Google have achieved landmark successes with their autonomous driving technology. Due to the fact that the state of Nevada passed a law in June 2011 which permits the use of autonomous cars in the state, Google were able to be granted a full driving licence for a Toyota Prius which had been modified with Google’s experimental driverless technology in May 2012. Since the success of these initial concepts, Google revealed in May that they intend to manufacture 100 prototypes of their ‘driverless car’ for test purposes. These “driverless vehicles” will seat two people and be limited to a maximum speed of 25mph in order to safeguard passengers. Instead of conventional controls, such as a steering wheel and brake pedals, these vehicles will feature a flexible windshield for safety and a spinning cone which aids the vehicle’s navigation capabilities. Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, advocates that these driverless vehicle prototypes offer significant potential for improvement and advancement. He enthused how, although the vehicles; ” will be very basic—we want to learn from them and adapt them as quickly as possible—but they will take you where you want to go at the push of a button. And that’s an important step toward improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people”.
Urmson’s theory of driverless vehicle adaptation bears resemblance to several autonomous vehicular technologies which are in currently development. One highly successful example of this ever-evolving driverless technology has been devised by automotive manufacturers Honda. They have implemented a new automatic valet parking system into several prototype vehicles. As reported by Jardine Motors, the system; “allows drivers enjoy a valet service provided by their own cars. The car is fitted with a Wi-Fi system and rear-view-camera. Utilising these in conjunction with information read from the car park’s surveillance system, the car is able to park itself”. Furthermore, motorists can also message their car to collect them from their current location whenever they require transportation.
As well as the prototypes by Honda and Google that facilitate convenience for motorists, many driverless technologies also offer enhanced safety features. For example, automotive manufacturers Volvo announced their innovative Cyclist Detection System2013 Geneva Motor Show. This technology is definitive as it marks world’s first automatic cyclist detection system for vehicles and will soon be available for use in Volvo’s V40, S60, V60, XC60, V70, XC70 and S80 models. The Cyclist Detection system operates via a series of sensors which monitor pedestrian and cyclist activity in front of and near the vehicle. By doing so, the system is able to automatically apply the brakes and stop the car when an obstacle or pedestrian is detected. Utilising a radar unit that is integrated within the car’s grille, a central control unit, and a camera that is fitted in front of the interior rear-view mirror, the system is able to determine the distance between pedestrians and automobiles as well as being able to identify to the type of objects in front of the car. Subsequently, if a threat is detected the automatic brakes are applied to the necessary capacity.
Fundamentally, these vehicular technologies offer motorists state of the art convenience, comfort and security. As stated by Honda’s ‘Safety For Everyone’ campaign, these driverless vehicles endeavour to “make parking both safer and easier for shoppers”. Consequently, although several of these technologies are still under development, they herald a new era wherein daily commutes and road traffic collisions can be comprehensively supported by highly advanced automotive technologies.
This article was produced by Bradley Taylor, a freelance writer from Derby, England. Bradley primarily writes automotive, scientific and travelling articles but he is versatile and also writes across a variety of other topics. He is very creative and loves learning how things work, experiencing other cultures and trying new things. You can connect with Bradley on Google+ and follow him on Twitter.