Saturday, September 3, 2016

Autonomous Cars: The Future is Nigh...

Driverless cars seem to be a pipedream that is decades away from becoming our reality. But then, just a couple weeks ago, Ford announced that in 2021 it's planning to release an autonomous car without a steering wheel, brake or throttle pedals, designed for ride-sharing. Then, just a few days later, Volvo and Uber announced their partnership to develop an autonomous car. And suddenly, the future seems closer than ever.

And it turns out, the future may already be here. Audi is introducing autonomous systems slowly into their products to indoctrinate their buyers to the tech. The 2017Audi has a  “Traffic Jam Assist” system available on the 2017 Audi A4 and Q7. The system uses steering input to keep the car in its lane. What's more, it allows the driver to take his or her hands off the wheel in slow-moving traffic for 15 seconds at a time. However, the driver can't turn attention away from the road, as he or she must intervene immediately if prompted by the car. Audi pledges to be the first carmaker to introduce Level 3 autonomy to the road with its next generation A8 full-size sedan. The A8 will debut Audi's Traffic Jam Pilot system. It will handle accelerating, braking and steering up to 35 mph.

BMW also has such features in their 2017 models and also plan to scale it up as Audi is doing, going fully autonomous by 2021. Ford, Nissan, Honda, Mercedes, Kia, Volvo and, of course, Tesla are all incrementing their autonomous features in the next few years, all with plans to be fully autonomous around the same time: 2021

Late last year, Tesla unveiled the now infamous Level 2 Autopilot system, which is part of a suite of driver assistance systems. These include Autosteer, Auto Lane Change, Traffic-Aware Cruise Control, Side Collision Warning and Autopark. Autopilot is in public beta-testing. In fact, Tesla is the only car company that is testing it out on the public, others are leaving it up to their engineers. It isn't nearly ready yet, as Autopilot has been blamed for several crashes around the world. Most notably a driver in Florida died while reportedly watching Harry Potter on DVD while his car was in Autopilot.

They do have several years to work it all out, though. And it looks like we'll be seeing autonomous cars out on the road in the very, very near future. Next: Flying Cars?? Hmmm....