Cars on Autopilot

By Ethan Woodfill

Getting a driver’s license may become useless in the next few years! Tesla Motors, a California-based electric car company, has entered the race with Germany, Japan, and even a Pittsburgh university to create a self-driving automobile. Germany’s Daimler AG already has the technology that allows a vehicle to drive itself. Well, almost. Automated driving, like traffic-jam-assistance in their S-Class Mercedes, has become a reality. This Mercedes version includes a feature that can maintain a safe distance between other cars in stopping and going traffic situations. Tesla Motors’ design would admit the driver to hand over 90% of the control of the vehicle to “auto-pilot”. Cars with full automated control would take longer to develop, T.M states. Carnegie Mellon University has already developed a vehicle that could navigate through congestion and safely change lanes during a 33-mile test run from Cranberry, PA to Pittsburgh International Airport. “Autonomous driving technology is progressing rapidly,” says Raj Rajkumar, the director of CMU’s Department of Transportation Research Center. “This car is the holy grail of autonomous driving because it can do it all — from changing lanes on highways, driving in congested suburban traffic and navigating traffic lights. This car and the research team behind it are proof that Carnegie Mellon continues to be a leader on this emerging frontier” (CMU Press Release).It may be  a challenge for self-driving cars to hit the roads in Europe,

laws require drivers to remain in control of their vehicles at all times. “And it is unclear whether the multi-billion dollar car insurance industry has any appetite to back the cars until the technology is proven, although driverless cars would be free from human error and programmed to obey traffic laws, features that could appeal to insurers” (Carroll-Reuters). In addition, buyers would be skeptical until extreme safety is demonstrated.

T.M.’s goal to create the self-driving automobile in three years is much more ambitious than other car maker’s timelines.  Despite these new technological breakthroughs, analysts claim that we’ll be in our mid-twenties before self-driving cars hit the road.

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