Drivers’ days are numbered
The Swedes are putting their heads together to deliver Autopilot in five years or less, PETER BARNWELL writes
IF you network all the driver assistance technology available in new cars, the so-called driverless car could conceivably be here right now.
Think about it — accurate satnav talking to the auto brake system, talking to the radar cruise control with braking, talking to the lane keeping assist, talking to queuing control, talking to the park assist talking to … right there you have the fundamentals for an autonomous car.
But will we get a car, or other vehicle, where you can actually sit back and read the paper while it drives you to work?
That all depends on government and risk assessors who are probably not that trusting of today’s technology.
And, of course, there’s always the traffic fine revenue issue — driverless cars won’t break the law so there’s no windfall to governments.
The prevailing attitude would most likely be, “Wait until the first big crash … who will be responsible?”
But it’s a certainty that autonomous vehicles will be here soon, particularly for heavy vehicles that will potentially use a “platooning” system that connects with a pilot vehicle, following it to a destination in convoy.
Volvo is leading the chase to be the first with a self-driving car and recently carried out testing on public roads.
It has also been working on platooning technology for a few years.
Volvo’s Drive Me project, featuring 100 self-driving Volvos on public roads in everyday driving conditions, is moving forward quite rapidly.
The first test cars are already driving around Sweden and the sophisticated Autopilot technology is performing well.
These cars are able to handle lane following, speed adaptation and merging traffic all by themselves.
It’s an important step towards Volvo’s aim that the final Drive Me cars will be able to drive the whole test route in a highly autonomous mode.
The Autopilot technology enables the driver to hand over the driving to the vehicle.
What makes the Drive Me project unique is that it involves all the key players: legislators, transport authorities, a major city, a vehicle manufacturer and real customers.
The $64,000 question is when do us humans finally cede control of the car to technology?
Five years or less is the tip from industry insiders.