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Driverless Cars? Not Anytime Soon, Auto Industry Officials Tell a Curious Congress

One Dem worries that the extremely high-tech cars could put traditional auto mechanics out of work.

by
Rodrigo Sermeño

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November 29, 2013 - 3:33 pm
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WASHINGTON – Auto industry officials and researchers told Congress this month technology that could lead to self-driving cars is gradually improving, but these vehicles will not be on the market in the immediate future.

Driverless cars, also referred to as autonomous cars, have sparked the public’s imagination and countless news stories. Interest in them spiked last year, when Google announced it would make the technology available to the public within five years. Since 2010, the tech giant has logged hundreds of thousands of accident-free miles in driverless vehicles.

A certain degree of automation is already available to consumers in many new car models – such as automatic parallel parking and adaptive cruise control – and the integration of those technologies with throttle and steering control could reduce the need of driver control of the vehicle. Autonomous cars will be capable of navigating roads with limited or no action from the driver by utilizing a variety of optical sensors, radar, and computer algorithms.

Lawmakers convened a panel to examine the technology and the technical advances that have led many to believe that autonomous cars could be on the road by the end of the decade.

Mike Robinson, General Motors’ vice president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs, told the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee that for the foreseeable future drivers will “still need to be engaged and in control.”

“These types of driverless systems are a significant distance into the future,” Robinson said. “This is because driving is very complicated business and it will take some time for the computer-driven systems to be capable of managing and reacting to all of the situations and road conditions that drivers do encounter.”

Raj Rajkumar, who heads the Carnegie Mellon University driverless car research project, said further research is required to address the challenges presented by such ordinary events as bad weather, poor road conditions, and different lighting conditions.

His team won a competition for autonomous vehicles in 2007, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Rajkumar said his team is looking at ways to improve “connected vehicle technologies” that would allow cars to communicate with each other, and with pedestrians and other vehicles on the road, via wireless radio.

Andy Christensen, senior manager of technology planning at Nissan, noted the company’s CEO has vowed to have an autonomous vehicle ready to sell by 2020.

“This timeframe is challenging, but we believe achievable,” he said.

National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) chief David L. Strickland said autonomous vehicles could help save thousands of dollars in economic costs to society from car crashes and, more importantly, reduce the number of lives lost in fatal accidents.

Earlier this year, NHTSA issued plans for research on autonomous vehicles, including proposals to look into connected vehicle technology.

Strickland told lawmakers that his agency was following closely the development of self-driving cars. “Automated driving is an exciting frontier for the industry, and we have identified three key areas for preliminary research: human factors and human-machine interface, initial system performance requirements, and electronic control system safety,” Strickland said.

Four states have passed laws permitting autonomous cars: Nevada, California, Michigan, and California. Last week, Michigan voted to allow testing of these vehicles on the state’s roads. Similar bills are before lawmakers in New Jersey, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia.

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All Comments   (21)
All Comments   (21)
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You can have all the flash and sizzle right now. Just legalize marajuana.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
My last pay check was 9500 dolr working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can't believe how easy it was once I tried it out.........>>>>>>>> http://xurl.es/f7ufb
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
my neighbor's sister-in-law makes $84 hourly on the computer. She has been out of work for eight months but last month her pay check was $12581 just working on the computer for a few hours. straight from the source........... http://www.Bay95.com
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I envisage the first driverless vehicules will be buses and I also envisage protests to no end by the public employee unions. The first generation driverless buses will not be totally autonomous: they will be monitored/controlled remotely by humans.

But first, should we now have driverless trains?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
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19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
A bloated bureaucracy always suffocates innovation through endless legislation. And Washington has been no more bloated than it is right now. I don't think we need to worry about driverless cars for awhile yet. Even if the tech was in place now, an aging and clueless Congress will prevent its implementation.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Luddites, just like machine driven looms, computer driven autos are a technology which will advance mankind: reduce traffic congestion, speed up transport, save fuel, save tens of thousands of lives every year, millions of injuries, provide door to door service as a car that can drive itself can park itself and come like dog when called.

What's next, farmers complaining that their tractors are plowing and harvesting their fields 24/7? Consumers bitching about their household robots making their meals, doing the shopping, and cleaning everything spotless including the windows? Are we going to have these Luddite fools blocking human advancement at every turn?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I built my first ham radio in 1957 at the age of 15. I did programming on a DEC PDP-8 computer in 1971. I build my own home computers today. I'm no Luddite, but I know the difference between what's possible and what's practical. Think back to the time in the 30's and the speculation of everyone flying their own airplane to work in a few years. Didn't happen, did it? Sure, if everybody had the skill, training, and desire, it might have, but they don't!

As for the robot-car, just imagine what the control freaks in Washington would give to have all that juicy usage data available. Where do you go, when, how fast, how often, etc. Remember, ultimately the car will be controlled by someone, or something other than you. You would be reduced to a mere passenger. Not much different than a passenger on a train. Trains only go where tracks are permitted. I suspect automated cars would ultimately be permitted about the same freedom of movement.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Luddites? Perhaps, but there are some things I would rather be able to do for myself, just because I want to.

Robot's, which is what these driverless cars really are, may be able to do everything for mankind some day, but what would be the point of living then, if we could not perform the functions that we chose?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
With driverless cars the speed limits could be safely raised.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
What happens when the tire pops?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Has it occurred to anyone that driverless cars will always obey the speed limit? Do you really want a car that goes 55 on the freeway?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
The freedom of learning to drive as a teenager was awesome. Now that teen of today can get in the car and have Mr. Computer drive them to their destination. That sounds like fun.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Two cars enter a highway each needing to exit at different points. How is that done. And what about other vehicles on the roads like trucks? I think this thing is far far off.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
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