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Driverless Cars

The driverless car or self-driving car is a concept that actually goes back nearly a century. Although how we view driverless cars today is somewhat different, the basic theories and reasoning for such vehicles is still very similar. Even many of our vehicles today come with automated features such as cruise control, rain-sensitive windshield wipers and automated lights when it becomes dark.

Future Driverless Car

Today, driverless vehicles are becoming a larger part of our landscape, leaving the realm of science fiction and becoming a day-to-day reality. This is in large part due to the advancement of computers and communication systems which may result in the foreseeable future people being carried along by autonomous vehicles.

What is a Driverless Car?

Basically, a driverless car is a vehicle that is capable of navigating the roadways without the assistance of a human driver. The autonomous car can sense the environment around it, communicate with other vehicles to avoid accidents and navigate the roadways to a pre-programmed destination.

While automated vehicles such as ones seen in science fiction movies such as "Total Recall" are not quite ready for our streets, there are currently open-air shuttles that operate in pedestrian zones in certain parts of the US which transport passengers to and from pre-programmed locations at relatively low speeds.

GM Autonomous Car

How do Driverless Vehicles Work?

Today, driverless cars combine a central computer system with instruments such as GPS, lidar, radar, communication systems and cameras to successfully navigate to a pre-programmed area. More advanced versions of these vehicles will continuously update their maps and surrounding environmental information which in turn helps the vehicle adapt to new situations such as reduced vision, rain, slick roads and so forth.

Autonomous vehicles actually date back to the 1920s when radio-controls were put in place to drive the vehicle from one destination to another. However, the first true driverless car was created in the 1980s by Mercedez-Benz and Bundeswehr University in Munich. From such beginnings, other car companies jumped into the mix from General Motors to Nissan and more.

By 2010, four electric autonomous vehicles actually drove from Italy to China, a distance of over 8000 miles. This breakthrough research project has led to many others which have advanced the cause of driverless vehicles. As of today, four US states as well as many cities in Europe have passed laws which permit driverless cars on their roadways.

Google Driverless Car

In 2012, Google posted several examples of its driverless cars using the search engine's Chauffeur software. Google retrofitted several Prius, Lexus and an Audi with its driverless car technology.

The Navia Shuttle, a product of Induct Technology, became the first self-driving vehicle to be put up for commercial sale. Carrying up to 8 people, this vehicle resembles a golf cart and is designed to take passengers from one location to another, such as from the airport to parking complexes, inside university or hospital complexes and so forth.

The Future of Automated Vehicles

Given the advancement in technology, it is very possible that automated vehicles will become the norm on the roadways in the near future. A HIS Automotive report states that by 2035 most vehicles will be self-driving, including personal cars and trucks.

What will arguably start with mass transit and cargo vessels will eventually reach personal vehicles in terms of automated driving. With fewer accidents and better fuel efficiency, driverless cars are becoming part of our present.

Written by Kevin Lepton