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Autonomous Car Technology Is Accelerating

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Autonomous Car Technology Is Accelerating

Geoff Maxted
November 18, 2013

Autonomous Lane Change
DriveWrite would like to see the statistics that state just what proportion of the world population are truly clamouring for autonomous cars. There seems to be a sort of dull acceptance that this technology is to be foisted on us regardless of whether we want it or not. Anyone who has ever marketed something new and improved will know full well that consumers once had a certain resistance to change and it usually took a goodly while for a particular thing to catch on.

These days of course we are technology driven and many behave like slavering beasts every time a new telephone is announced so, regardless of what motorists actually want, the true driverless car will probably be with us within a decade or so.

We more or less already have technology that lets cars drive themselves in congested highway traffic. This is being installed because, citing the inevitable health and safety issues, the powers that decide these things believe that modern man is incapable of driving properly or of making decisions.

Obviously, nobody wants to die - or indeed be injured - in a car accident so defensive gizmos (lane awareness, collision mitigation etc) are fine but the ball is rolling now so just as we accept what’s new now so the manufacturers are already are working on the next steps, such as automatic overtaking and lane changing.

Those next steps would allow some drivers to sit back and let the car do much of the work on their daily commutes, possibly around the end of this decade and preceding full autonomy. These vehicles that can take over for the driver at low speeds on limited-access highways are already are on the way in Europe, including the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz S class and Audi A8. They use sensors to maintain a uniform distance from the car ahead of them and to remain central in a lane. Mercedes-Benz calls the feature Traffic Jam Assist, while BMW and Audi use the name Traffic Jam Assistant.

As it becomes cheaper and more commonplace so it can be expected that the systems will be made to work at ever greater speeds whilst at the same time working towards the ability for cars to change lanes and pass slower vehicles.

Cars that avoid each other automatically will need to sense all that is going on around them and there are many pitfalls still to be negotiated but it is already theoretically possible under certain conditions.

This is all very well but groups of cars under automatic controls would be a train and we already have those. It is going to come down to what motorists want from their vehicles. There’s a lot of us who enjoy driving; we enjoy being in control of machinery and, by and large, we do it well. Sadly that won’t matter to the killjoys of the EU. Thus we will witness - increasingly quickly - the decisions of driving taken away from us whether we like it or not. I give you the nanny state overhead gantries as an example.

I’m not quite sure if the car manufacturers fully understand how we feel about cars. We take it personally. Those of us who have been lucky enough to grow up with proper cars will not be bothered with automated euro-boxes. Certainly, the nightmare scenario I’m suggesting is a long way away but things change. What we accept as the norm will soon enough be featuring on nostalgia TV channels. Out with the old (when did you last have oxtail soup for example?) and in with the new. We are witnessing the slow demise of the golden age of motoring and there’s nothing we can do. Make the most of it.

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