You will soon be obsolete. Over the past decade, autonomous driving technology has made it off the drawing board and onto public roads. Here's a look at some of the major steps our future robot chauffeurs have made.
When the history of robot cars is written, Sandstorm will play the role of Adam. Developed at Carnegie Mellon University to compete in the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge, an autonomous car race set to cover 150 miles of desert roads in California and Nevada, the modified Humvee was guided by three LIDAR laser range finders, an internal mapping system and GPS. Unfortunately, it only made it a little more than 7 miles before getting stuck on a rock, but that was further than any other vehicle in the competition. A year later it completed the course, but in 2nd place behind an Volkswagen Toureg from Stanford University named Stanley.
Stanford and VW continued their partnership by building an Audi TTS sports car outfitted with similar technology that successfully negotiated the 156-turn, 12.4-mile road to the top of Colorado's 14,100-foot-high Pikes Peak in 2010. The car finishing in 27 minutes, about half the time of one of the high performance race cars that compete there each year.
Looks like Stanford is aiming to be the center of the robotic Motor City of the future. Staff from the university involved with the previous two projects, along with a few DARPA Grand Challenge vets, are the driving force behind the driverless vehicles being developed by Google. The fleet of 10 cars have logged over 300,000 miles and the only accident caused by one happened when a silly human had taken control of the vehicle.
Before they turn sentient, autonomous vehicles are meant to be at our beck and call, taking the tedium out of automobile operation. To that end, Volvo has demonstrated a system that allows you to drop your car off at parking lot, which the vehicle communicates with to find an open spot, drive to it and park itself, with cameras and radar avoiding obstacles and other fleshbags that might get in its way.When you're ready to leave, just use your smartphone to summon it to the pick-up zone. Hopefully you've taken good care of it, or else it might decide to look the other way.
Not only are robots driving cars, but they've become a part of the engineering teams that design them. Ford is using autonomous test drivers to put its latest trucks through durability trials because humans just can't hack it the way steel and silicon can. That's fine, since they'll be doing most of the driving in the future, but just don't touch our cupholders, ok?
Sit back, relax and hope a fuse doesn't blow.