Wednesday, 8 April 2015

An autonomous car just drove across the USA

STEPHEN LAM/Reuters/Corbis via
An autonomous car just drove across the USA.

Nine days after leaving San Francisco, the car rolled into New York City after crossing 15 states and 3,400 miles to make history.

99 percent of the driving was done by the car on its own, a human behind the wheel only when it was time to leave the highway and hit city streets.

This amazing feat, by the automotive supplier Delphi, underscores the great leaps this technology has taken in recent years, and just how close it is to becoming a part of our lives. 

You’d have to look twice to spot the cameras and LIDaR around the car; the radars are hidden behind plastic body panels. Even the trunk looks ordinary, which is quite a feat—Delphi packed all the necessary computers in the spare tire compartment. That was intentional, Owens says. “We were kind of going for the remarkably unremarkable look.” The reason for this modesty is any tech Delphi pitches to automakers has to be unobtrusive and production-ready. 

Today, most of the world’s major automakers are working on autonomous technology, with Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Volvo leading the pack. Google may be more advanced than anyone: The tech giant says its self-driving cars are so far along, they can recognize and respond to hand signals from a cop directing traffic.

Most automakers are taking a slow and steady approach to the technology and plan to roll it out over time. Most expect to have cars capable of handling themselves in stop and go traffic and on the highway within three to five years. Cars capable of navigating more complex urban environments will follow in the years beyond that, while fully autonomous vehicles are expected to be commonplace by 2040.

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