Technology has no limits. Automobiles have seen these far-reaching changes during the past decade and today thinking about autonomous self-driving vehicles no longer remains a hallucination. Companies like Google and Volvo have already started working on such projects and even their prototypes have been spotted several times undergoing tests in their respective countries. These vehicles have the ability to fulfill the human transportation capabilities of a conventional car. They sense the environment on their own and navigate through the roads without any human input. Take a look at Google and Volvo’s self-driving cars:
Volvo’s ‘Drive Me’ autopilot cars
Swedish automaker Volvo has started testing its autonomous cars on the roads. These self-driving cars named ‘Drive Me’ are a part of a project which involves major authorities related to legislation, transportation, car manufacturer and the end customers. These key players are performing a major role in creating self-driving cars that could be launched for the masses within 10 months of period, if all goes well. This project currently includes 100 self-driving cars that are being tested on typical motorways and frequent queues spreading in 50 kilometer range in the Swedish city of Gothenburg.
‘Drive Me’ cars have the ability to tackle lane system, auto speed adaptation and also merging in traffic conditions by their own. The technology will be called as ‘Autopilot’ which means the driver or passenger would hand over the car to the computerized system attached in the car which will take care of the driving functions. As mentioned above, the project is also endorsed by the government of Sweden and transport authorities so that these prototypes could soon transform into production versions.
Volvo has also joined hands with Chinese Ministry of Transport’ Research Institute of Highway, Chalmers University, Tongii University and Swedish companies like AF Technologies and Autoliv to initiate a joint study of the driving behavior in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. For this, 10 Volvo S60L will be used which would be loaded with several equipments including cameras and sensors to monitor and collect information from surrounding traffic. This testing will give an understanding about the busy traffic conditions and will help in developing safety system based on the output.
Google Self-Driving Cars
Using autonomous technology, Google has also been testing its self-driven robotic cars. Unlike Volvo, Google uses a group of cars for testing like Toyota, Lexus RX450h and Audi TT, etc. which are equipped with a bunch of software like Google Maps for navigating and other sensors to avoid any unexpected event. Even Nevada State of US had passed a law three years back in 2011 which ultimately came into effect in March 2012. The law permitted the operation of such autonomous cars on the streets. Other testing areas include Florida followed by California. Toyota Prius with Google experimental system was the first car to get license from Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
Google has been testing these cars for quite a while now and we can see dozens of cars plying on the streets of California and Nevada. These robotic cars have crossed over 700,000 accident free miles or without any untoward incidents. For more safety and security of the pedestrians and avoiding accidents, Google has now updated these cars with some imposing software improvements and the software driving the cars has been named ‘Google Chauffeur’. These cars can now keep track of hundreds of objects on the road simultaneously, traffic start/stop signs, roads signs, and recently even included feature that could deal with the cyclists smartly.
For testing Google sends its employees to ride on the car and accumulate data based on anomalous road conditions. Google has also taught its robotic cars to tackle railway crossing, large stationary objects and lowering the speed in anticipation if in case it faces cyclist who uses hand signal. These autonomous cars have been outfitted with equipments worth US$150,000. The real-time LIDAR technology and the 360-degree cameras act as a computer vision to monitor every single driving condition. This project is still going under heavy testing as there are thousands of situations that occur while driving the car which need to be handled before official launch from Google.
So, there is a long time before these next generations automated vehicles would be commercialized. The electric cars on the other hand have now become completely eligible to enter into the mainstream while autonomous cars would still take a while before they can be used widely for public and private transportation.
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