Driv­ers’ days are num­bered

The Swedes are putting their heads to­gether to de­liver Au­topi­lot in five years or less, PETER BARN­WELL writes

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE -

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.

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