Driverless Cars: The Latest Developments
Up until now, the one variable most of us could count on when owning a car is that someone would be driving it. While the concept of the driverless car is not new and certainly a vision for the future, some of the developments available on these incredible prototypes presented at the recent Geneva Motor Show are beyond the realm of credibility for most of us.
In the words of Rinspeed founder and chief executive, Frank Rinderknecht: "I wanted to put the passnger at the center of what is possible, not the autonomous driving technology...Once I can drive autonomously, would I want to watch while my steering wheel turns happily from left to right? No, I would like to do anything else but drive and watch the traffic; eat, sleep, work, whatever you can imagine..."
What are the latest advances in driverless cars?
The visions of a Swiss think tank headed by Rinspeed have developed some of the following possibilities for a future when drivers no longer have to concentrate on the road ahead and the experience can be dramatically redefined. They include: the ability to hold a conversation with fellow passengers, brew an expresso, surf the Internet or watch a full-length movie on a large screen. The experience would be similar to that which occurs with arplane travel. All that's missing, in fact, are uniformed stewardesses to serve you "coffee, tea or me."
Interior design innovations
The driveless car interiors must of course, reflect the possibility for all of these activities and this involves among other things, the redesign of the car's seating arrangements. Some innovations include: swivel seats that can tilt and slide into twenty positions, enabling passengers to face each other whether they are seated in the front or back of the vehicle, and all to watch a 32-inch screen.
The steering column is mobile and can be moved to the center of the car to make way for an entertainment system that will run across the full length of the dashboard and allow pasengers a better view of the screen. The biggest challenges for manufactuers of autonomous cars lie in overcoming safety, liability and regualtory issues.
The psychological aspects of driverless cars
According once again to Frank Rinderknecht: "Hypothetically, if you go to Heathrow Airport and have an option of flying in a plane with two pilots or a plane with no pilots, we all know which one you will trust." While rubber always met the road, with this new encounter of technology and artificial intelligence, the road becomes something else; an obstacle of trust in the psychological challenge of relinquishing control.Rinderknecht goes on to say that accident reduction is more of an argument for than against automation because of the potentially assured reliability of the cars once the technologysi eprfected and finalized.
The future of driverless cars
Partial, if not complete driverless cars may well become a reality in the next decade. As of this writing, Sebastian Thrun, lProfessor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, has worked with and helped Google develop fully autonomous cars for the purpose of reducing accidents and saving lives. Traditional carmakers are following suit and creaing a range of autonomous technologies as well.
A new industrial revolution fueled by the convergence of automotive technology and artificial intelligence is on the horizon. Carmakers at the Geneva Motor Show have demonstrated that they believe vehicles that drive themselves, at least to a certain extent, are soon to become a reality.
Planning to take a long drive?
M Dee Dubroff