Fantasy of Automated Cars
Imagine living in a world where you can hit the snooze button on your cell phone a few more times and catch a few extra Z’s because you won’t have beat the traffic, where those damn bikers don’t (actually can’t) cut in front of your car like a death reaper was on his heels, where those grisly accidents only happen in movies. A world where you can put your feet up on the dashboard while the car drives itself while listening to the news. It’s a paradise isn’t it? What if I tell you that you can hitch a ride to this paradise city, thanks to recent innovations from those brilliant car-makers and automotive tech companies? No this is no fantasy, just the future of automobiles, the world of automated cars.
A car that stalks you
No. Not the kind of stalking Arnie’s car Christine did in that popular Stephen King (of Shawshank Redemption and The Shining fame) novel, but the kind where the car will mould itself to your behaviour. Carmakers Mercedes-Benz and Ford are developing on-board computer systems that will collect enormous amounts of data – mostly regarding your behaviour behind the wheel –and over time learn your schedule, preferences and even your moods. These computers will analyse the data to control something as trivial as the temperature inside the car to something as complicated as suggesting a detour from your normal travel route to work by tracking traffic conditions from GPS and satellite data. It even collects data on how you were working the brakes and gas pedals, storing them in a black-box. Insurance companies and the Police can use this data in the event of a crash.
Audi, Nissan and Ford are working on health monitors in the car that track driver health by analysing alcohol content in their sweat, checking head movements, blood-sugar levels (for diabetic drivers), heart attack monitors (through ECGs on the steering wheel). All this monitoring and tracking may seem creepy but it makes driving so much safer!
Say adieu to your parking woes!
Remember those frustrating moments when parking took more time than the drive to your favourite shopping centre. Ford, Hyundai, Audi and Volvo have been experimenting on automated parking systems. Semi-automated systems in cars will allow it to park itself in a space where you won’t have to squeeze into your car because the door didn’t open all the way and from where you can pull out easily!! Seems like a dream no? This will be made possible by cameras on your front and rear bumpers, that measure and find the right parking space.
With cameras mounted in the 4 corners of a parking lot and Wi-Fi connectivity, Hyundai demonstrated the possibility of automated valet parking. The car will steer itself into the parking space and drive itself back – at the push of a button. So much time saved!
“I see mirror-less vehicles on the road every day!” you might say. I am not talking about cars with broken side-view mirrors but about cars which will have cameras instead. Texas Instruments is already making headway in designing this system. With cameras replacing all of your vehicles mirrors, you will have no blind spots and an increased field of view. also know speed and distance of the vehicle approaching you. These cams can be synced to apps that warn you about changing lanes when it’s not safe among other things. For carmakers this would mean designing better looking cars that are sleek. Seems like the future of driverless vehicles on the roads is not far away!
A Social Network for cars
Internet-of-Things (which I always will keep raving about) has found its way into driving too. Computerization of cars has made it possible to bring crowdsourcing to the highway. Cars at one end of the city will trade information with cars at the other end of the city about weather condition, traffic and road conditions. By broadcasting the speed and direction, they will warn each other about safety hazards, like when you are on a collision course with another vehicle that’s drifting onto your lane.
The US department of Transportation in collaboration with University of Michigan is already pilot testing vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication with 3000 vehicles in Ann Arbor fitted with prototype V2V devices and they are already sold on it. With estimates that say this tech can reduce 76% of accidents, who wouldn’t be?
Most would believe that the technology for automated driving is right around the corner, and in a way they are right. Systems that recognize hazards and brake on their own are already on the market. But a fantasy car where you get into your car straight after bed, say “take me to my office” and get into your work clothes while it drives you there is still a few years away.
Google, which is at the forefront of innovation with Google Glass, Priority Inbox and using Google Wallet for money transactions as E-Mail Attachments, has been testing automated driving already for a few years now. These cars could save energy, cut down road accidents and ease traffic congestion by traveling at uniform speeds. But even if the cars can vastly improve driver safety, the technology will not be available for prime-time until carmakers are absolutely sure that they are 110% reliable. And then there are government laws to consider. These laws have to be reworked, a feat that is very tough but possible only if car manufacturers and the government put their heads together.
What do you think about automated cars of the future? When this technology hits the market, will you be wary of the car taking over and steer clear? Or will you embrace it to reap the benefits of a stress free commute? Let us know in the comments section.