For all you futurists out there, Mercedes just announced that they successfully tested an autonomous vehicle. They set up an S550 with some extra equipment, programmed in a 3D map of the route and then sat back while the car successfully drove itself (yes, a driver was there just in case) 62 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim. Nobody got hit, the care made it safely and the test was deemed successful, albeit with a few glitches.
One glitch that is unlikely to show up in the U.S. is when a polite car or pedestrian waves the driverless car through an intersection but the programming doesn’t allow for that eventuality. Since such an act of politeness is very rare in the U.S., we haven’t got much to worry about. Another issue is that current European laws and many U.S. states currently ban driverless cars. This seems silly in that current drivers are so lousy that even a dumb robot would likely be safer.
In any case, many other carmakers are working on similar systems and what with current accident avoidance, smart cruise, self-parking and other technologies already in use, a fully self-driving car is probably closer than we think. I just hope they work better than my GPS, which always seems to get me lost.
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Image courtesy of Mercedes Benz.