Self-driving Cars?

Image of Driverless Concept Car

We all know there is a huge amount of technology, electronics and computers in all modern cars. Some people hate it and prefer to be able to repair their cars using an elastic band, whereas others prefer the additional performance, safety and comfort that is provided by all these gadgets. These gadgets are of course the reason behind the development of the VAGCOM system and all On-Board diagnostics scanners / readers.

The original need for computers within a car was to reduce the level of fuel used, this crude electronic fuel injection system was being implemented in the early 1980’s (although manufactures experimented with pre-production cars during the 1950’s) replacing carburettors, however it had been difficult to implement such computer devices due to the physical size requirements of the devices. As the 1980’s went on the use of carburettors became rarer, now due to reliability and emissions laws an EFI (electronic fuel injection) system is almost a requirement.

During the 1990’s On-Board diagnostics system were far more common, not only were they used for factors such as fuel mixture and regulating emissions but also braking systems, the odometer and even the climate control / cooling system.

Modern cars come with a seriously large array of gadgets including automatic wipers, parking sensors and cameras, automatic lights, automatic brakes, lane departure warning systems, HUDs (Head-up displays) and even night vision. When will these computers stop taking over our cars or will we end up with a car like Kitt from Knight Rider? The development of self driving cars is not that new, in the late 1970’s Tsukuba Mechanical Engineering Lab created a car that could follow white markers and travelled up to 20mph. In the 1980’s a vehicle was demonstrated in the United State that used a laser radar for road-following, this vehicle also travelled at 20mph. Over the next ten years computer processing power increased substantially, resulting in a vehicle that was 95% autonomous, meaning a human was required to complete some adjustments during the test. This doesn’t sound hugely impressive, however the vehicle (S-Class Mercedes) did cover almost 100 miles without human intervention and it was also able to travel at speeds exceeding 108mph on the German Autobahn.

In the past few months Google has received the first self-drive driving licence, that’s right you will soon see a self-drive car on the roads in Nevada. The first car used was a Toyota Prius, which took a spin down the famous strip in Las Vegas. The Prius has covered a total of 140,000 miles with only one accident, when the car behind drove into the stopped Prius at lights. Now that we have autonomous cars on our roads what’s next? The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has predicted that by 2040 as much as 75% of all road traffic will be self-driven autonomous vehicles.