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Driveless cars

Driverless cars

Aug 30th 2013 / The Economist

Earlier this week, Nissan, Japan’s second-largest carmaker, became the first manufacturer to announce plans to put a driverless car into production. Andy Palmer, the firm’s executive vice president, expects it will roll down an assembly plant by 2020. Just as significantly, it hopes to offer autonomous driving capabilities on all of its models within the following decade.

Autonomous driving will reduce accidents and improve safety, reckons Mr Palmer, perhaps even ending road-traffic fatalities altogether. The technology should also allow more efficient use of public roads, especially in traffic-snarled cities, reducing energy consumption as vehicles have to stop-and-go less frequently. Mr Palmer estimates the technology could cut CO2 emissions from cars by as much as 300m tonnes a year worldwide.

Nissan is by no means the only firm interested in autonomous driving. Virtually every carmaker is now experimenting with the concept, as is Google which has logged many thousands of miles with its own prototypes. Indeed, Google has been perhaps the most ambitious proponent. It thinks it could be ready to partner with an established automaker by 2017, although industry-watchers think the middle of the next decade is more realistic.

Many of the underlying technologies, including cameras, laser, radar and sonar sensors and heavy-duty microprocessing power are already found on production models. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class features what the German maker describes as a “sensor fusion”, bringing together various systems designed to detect obstacles, traffic and even read road signs. It can, for example, automatically stop if a pedestrian walks out in front of it. […]

Human drivers must constantly adapt to obstacles and unexpected conditions.

[…]

This means Nissan’s target date might be ambitious. And there are other obstacles beyond construction sites and speed bumps to overcome. America may be tech-friendly but it is also highly litigious. Attorneys, one suspects, are eagerly awaiting the first crash involving an autonomous vehicle to create a new line of legal work that could keep them as busy as the engineers developing the technology. […] http://credit-n.ru/zaymyi-next.html

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