“Look, no hands!” While it may be hard to believe, this driverless car is from 1971.
Though autonomous vehicles may be all the rage as of late, the idea isn’t all that new. Just take a look at this video from 1971 — which is among a series of newly-released archive footage by the Associated Press and British Movietone — that shoes a mysterious driverless car being studied at Britain’s Road Research Laboratory.
The commentator introducing the futuristic technology claims the automobile is “the shape of things to come in highway travel,” and speculates that it will be part of everyday use by the year 2000.
According to the video, the system consisted of “computerized electronic impulses that are relayed to the car through a special receiving unit fixed to the front. Signals picked up from the inlaid track were interpreted by the unit to change the car’s course or its speed.” The narrator goes on to compare it to the autopilot system used in planes.
Impressively, the researchers at the lab developed the self-driving car without most of the technology readily accessible to automakers today. And while they may be 15 or so years off in terms of their timeline, the prediction was pretty darn accurate. Today, autonomous vehicles are being trailed on a 32-acre test facility at the University of Michigan, while Google has already been experimenting with cars of their own in California.
The ARRB Group has announced its first on-road trial of driverless cars.
The possibility of driverless cars in Australia is now one step closer to becoming a reality with autonomous vehicles set to hit the streets of Adelaide in November as part of the country’s first-ever road trials.
Led by the the national road safety research agency ARRB Group, the pilot will be a collaboration between Telstra, Bosch and Volvo, who will be supplying its next generation XC90. For its initial test, the self-driving SUVs will be traveling at speeds of up to 62 mph on closed sections of the highway. Upon observation, the researchers will be able to better understand what it is that will be required to make this technology safe for Australian roads.
ARRB group managing director Gerard Waldron said automated vehicles are far from science fiction, but rather a short-term reality that the country needs to be prepared for.
“The trials in South Australia this November will be the first of many trials nationally, with discussions underway in a number of jurisdictions. We’re seeking technology and automotive industry partners to assist us in Australia’s driverless vehicle innovation,” Waldron explains. “Driverless cars have a range of benefits that could significantly improve road safety and the quality of life of everyday Australians, add to the nation’s economic competitiveness and help relieve rapidly growing congestion that is crippling our infrastructure and creating productivity deficits in our capital cities.”
The agency’s latest initiative puts Australia right behind the UK, U.S. and Sweden as global leaders in automated vehicle research. The trials in South Australia later this year will be the first of many nationally, with discussions already underway in a number of other jurisdictions.
“ARRB will establish how driverless technology needs to be manufactured and introduced for uniquely Australian driving behaviour, our climate and road conditions, including what this means for Australia’s national road infrastructure, markings, surfaces and roadside signage,” Waldron adds.
Volvo Australia managing director Kevin McCann believes that the technnology will deliver a wide range of benefits, even with a human behind the wheel, including improved traffic safety and fuel economy, reduced congestion, as well as the opportunity for better infrastructure planning.
Hosted by the South Australian Government, the pilot is expected to coincide with a Driverless Vehicle Conference on November 5-6th. Other partners supporting ARRB’s efforts include the RAA, Adelaide Airport Limited, Flinders University, Cohda Wireless and Carnegie Mellon University.
Volvo isn’t the only car manufacturers vying for the market, though, as Audi has its sights set on a a driverless A8 available by 2017, Nissan with plans of their own by 2019 and Ford by 2020. Aside from that, the University of Michigan recently opened what they’re calling “Mcity,” the world’s first controlled environment specifically designed to test the potential of automated vehicle technologies that will lead the way to mass-market driverless cars.
Audi will be debuting its RS 7 Piloted Driving Concept under what may arguably be one of the most challenging conditions possible. In its effort to bring self-driving vehicles to the streets, the car manufacturer is hitting the race track to see just how its unmanned vehicles stack up against human drivers.
The driverless car will lap the Hockenheim track on October 17th and 19th at racing speeds ranging from 149 to 189.5 miles per hour. With 560PS (552hp), the Piloted Driving Concept is not your average autonomous car. According to the car manufacturer, the prototype is quite similar to the production model with the exception of its electromechanical power steering, brakes, throttle valve and eight-speed Tiptronic transmission being controlled automatically.
“We’re going into the curves, the cornering, just like a professional race driver. So for example, we have lateral accelerations of more than 1g,” Audi says in its promo video.
How will the vehicle stay on the track? The technology platform is equipped with specially-corrected GPS signals for orientation — these differential GPS data are accurate down to a centimeter and transmitted to the vehicle via WLAN. In addition, 3D camera images are compared in real-time against graphical information stored onboard. The system searches in each of the countless individual images for several hundred known features, such as building patterns behind the track, which it then uses as additional positioning information.
“The car is really able to cope with situations it was not directly taught. It handles unexpected things very well,” an Audi rep explained.
As previously reported on Bits & Pieces, forecasts are calling for 94.7 million vehicles equipped with self-driving capabilities to be sold annually around the world by 2035. Moreover, Gartner believes autonomous vehicles are set to disrupt the business dynamics of at least one-third of the industries in the developed world. From Mercedes and GM to Tesla and Google, a number of companies are already in the process of developing autonomous vehicles that will do everything from park themselves to take over the driver’s seat in traffic.
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, has recently announced that the company plans to introduce 120-miles of technology-enabled highways in and around the Motor City.
By 2017, GM is planning on deploying vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication systems as a standard in its Cadillac CTS sedan. Equipped with the company’s “Super Cruise” technology, future vehicles will be able to drive themselves, handling highway speeds of up to 70mph. GM’s semi-automated technology will keep a vehicle in a specific, properly equipped freeway lane, making necessary steering and speed adjustments in bumper-to-bumper traffic or long highway trips. However, unlike the driverless vehicle being tested by Google, GM’s system will still require drivers to remain attentive and ready to resume control of the vehicle.
Although Google’s driverless cars have been at the center of all the buzz, several automakers aren’t too far behind in the IoT fast lane. According to reports, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Nissan, Toyota and Tesla are among the latest manufactures dipping their toes into the autonomous driving waters.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has also recently said it is considering adopting a rule by 2016 requiring V2V systems. V2V communications use a variation of the 802.11 wireless network standard used by laptops and mobile phones, but instead link cars, which can share position and speed information with each other 10 times per second.
“I’m convinced customers will embrace V2V and automated driving technologies for one simple reason: they are the answer to everyday problems that people want solved,” Barra said.
According to GM’s CEO, the so-called Super Cruise technology will “kick in when there’s a congestion alert on roads like California’s Santa Monica Freeway, you can let the car take over and drive hands free and feet free through the worst stop-and-go traffic around.” She adds, “If the mood strikes you on the high-speed road from Barstow, California, to Las Vegas, you can take a break from the wheel and pedals and let the car do the work. Having it done for you — that’s true luxury.”
That being said, safety remains the paramount concern when assimilating driverless vehicles onto modern roadways. “The key to all these systems is big data — the mounds of information flowing in and out of your vehicle from intelligent transportation systems, otherwise known as vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure technology,” Forbes‘ Joann Muller explains.
At this week’s Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress in Detroit, Honda and GM unveiled systems where pedestrian smartphones would send alerts to drivers about an individual’s location. These alerts, scanned for every 10 seconds by the vehicle, could greatly improve pedestrian safety in heavily-trafficked areas.
While full vehicle autonomy may not be on the immediate horizon, there are still concrete steps being taken by major industry players to get ahead of the technology curve. With some driverless cars hitting the streets next year, this topic of discussion will only heat up.
25 years from now, we can expect to see roads filled with millions of self-driving vehicles, as automakers and legislators aim to cut back on congestion and accidents. This week, the Department of Transportation announced the arrival of a report regarding the future of vehicle to vehicle (V2V) technology.
As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces,V2V technology is exactly what it sounds like: Cars will soon “talk and listen” to one another — automatically. They will share information like proximity, speed, direction, road conditions, as well as countless others things yet to be imagined. The chief driver of V2V is signaling impending collisions so that the cars can automatically take countermeasures. That, of course, means the V2V network will become a critical technology for self- and assisted-driving cars. According to its latest report, the DOT hopes that by the end of the decade, law will require all new vehicles to be hooked up to this so-called roadway network.
“Safety is our top priority, and V2V technology represents the next great advance in saving lives. This technology could move us from helping people survive crashes to helping them avoid crashes altogether – saving lives, saving money and even saving fuel thanks to the widespread benefits it offers,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx affirms.
A research team at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute has begun testing V2V communications on a wider scale. The group has signed up over 3,000 volunteers to implement the tech into the real world and use it on a daily basis. Auto manufacturers have also joined in by offering up a series of test cars for the research team to use.
GM’s Dan Flores tells the New York Times, “We think there’s a fundamental benefit where people can be safer if they have this technology. We believe, longer term, it will be part of the suite of technologies that will bring about a true driverless car.”
Gary Silberg, who forecasts future trends in the auto industry for consulting firm KPMG, estimates close to half of all new vehicles sold in 2039 will offer the option of being entirely autonomous. Navigant Research forecasts 94.7 million vehicles with self-driving capabilities will be sold annually around the world by 2035. With self-driving cars hitting some roadways in 2015, it comes with little surprise that this technology is on the cusp of becoming fully adopted.
Google, which many credit with sparking America’s fascination of driverless cars, recently showed a next-generation car with no steering wheel, just a panic button for emergency stops. “The technology has evolved. The sensors, actuators and so on are already there. It is really about integration. We are along the path to get there and I foresee that day coming,” Johann Jungwirth, President of Mercedes-Benz R&D North America, explained.
Still, with safety being of paramount importance, it is clear we will see this technology develop in the near future to become the norm. “The country is well on its way to deploying this life-saving technology. We need to preserve the space on the spectrum that these safety systems rely on to operate. There is no better use of this spectrum than to save lives,” explained John Bozzella, President and CEO of Global Automakers.
And for those who can do without traffic, in 25 years, congestion will only get worse. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts the American population to exceed 400 million people — meaning more drivers on the nation’s highways. Navigant Research estimates another 10 million vehicles will be in use by 2035, bringing the total number on American roads to more than a quarter billion. Subsequently, vehicles equipped with V2V technology could also enable the development of a wide range of mobility and environmental benefits based on vehicle-to-infrastructure applications and other V2V applications that can enhance traffic flow in many ways.
So in a few years, if a car zooms past you on the freeway with no apparent driver, don’t be concerned… you’re likely safer for it!
As cars continue to get smarter, they’re becoming more electrical and autonomous. Interested in learning more about Atmel’s automotive portfolio? Check out our automotive-qualified category breakdown below:
According to The Sunday Times, the UK is looking to test autonomous cargo trucks beginning in 2015. These automated trucks, or “lorries” as they are called across the pond, would grant a single driver the ability to lead a convoy of cargo filled vehicles.
The lorry in front would still driven by a human, while their controls would be shared with all other vehicles in the convoy via Wi-Fi, so the group would move as an homogenous train. A driver would sit in the cab of each lorry, but they will not be required to control the vehicle unless there is an emergency or unpredictable traffic build-up, for example.
The convoy idea was first tested on a regular public road in Spain by Volvo as part of the European Commission’s Safe Road Trains for the Environment project back in 2012, though in that case the lead truck was followed by three regular cars. Motherboard notes that driverless trucks have already been piloted on closed roads by Daimler in Germany and Scania in Sweden, while the Netherlands has unveiled plans to introduce driverless lorries in its Rotterdam port.
Backers of the proposal believe the system would enable drivers to use their laptop, read a book or even “sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch.” In addition, advocates also say these automated convoys would cut down on road congestion and diminish fuel consumption by nearly 10%. The trials are slated to be held on tracks in Britain, and if successful, could potentially be extended to quieter motorways overnight.
The UK government has announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads beginning this January. Cities throughout the UK can place bids to become test-driving areas for the driverless vehicles; however, out of the applicant pool, only three will be chosen.
Though several engineering groups, including one from the University of Oxford, have been experimenting with self-driving technology on private roads, the upcoming government-funded tests will mark the first time self-driving cars will be permitted on public roads. These test periods will last anywhere between 18 and 36 months, Mashable reports.
In addition to joining a number of U.S. states in allowing them public road usage, ministers have ordered a review of UK road regulations to accommodate the vehicles prior to their 2015 arrival. Other countries have, however, been swifter to provide access to public routes. As Mashable notes, the U.S. states of California, Nevada and Florida have all approved tests of the vehicles. In California alone, Google’s driverless car has done more than 300,000 miles on the open road. In 2013, Nissan carried out Japan’s first public road test of an autonomous vehicle on a highway. And in Europe, the Swedish city of Gothenburg has given Volvo permission to test 100 driverless cars – although that trial is not scheduled to occur until 2017.
“Driverless cars have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network — they could improve safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions, particularly CO2,” Transport Minister Claire Perry said in the recent statement.
“The announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society,” explained Business Secretary Vince Cable.
British cities interested in becoming test areas have until October 1, 2014, to declare a bid. The three selected cities will receive a £10 million stipend (approximately $17 million) to be divided equally among them, the official press release states. At this point, it’s not public knowledge yet as to which companies will produce the self-driving cars.