One of the most exciting technologies being developed are autonomous cars – so called, “driverless cars.” Google has grabbed the most headlines for their development and road testing in Mountain View, California. Not to be outdone however, most of the major car companies are working on prototypes. The general consensus is that within 10 years, this technology will be commonplace.
Audi just tested their “level 3 autonomy” prototype on a drive between San Francisco and Las Vegas. There are five levels of autonomous cars with level 1 being the parking assist and brake assist that are common today. Level 5 autonomy would be a car without a steering wheel, where you would just get in and tell it where to take you. That technology is definitely coming, but it’s likely that we’ll see it come in an evolutionary fashion, not a revolutionary one.
Here is a video that Audi put together of their prototype test.
My take on it:
I love they idea of an autonomous car. I’m not a big fan of driving but I do love a good road trip. I can imagine a day when we might hop into our motorhome. Might make some popcorn, put on a movie. Then go to bed. In the morning, we’ll wake up 700 miles away, refreshed and ready for a day of sightseeing.
Level 3 autonomy is a step on the path. It’s an exciting step because it addresses the boring part of a long drive. The problem is, it makes the boring part, even more boring. I don’t know about you, but if I’m sitting in a comfortable seat, the hum of the wheels on the pavement, and nothing to do… well, I know what’s going to happen. There isn’t enough caffeine to keep me awake in that scenario.
Autonomous cars really start to get interesting when they can go faster and more cars can be packed onto an existing road. Freeway congestion could become a thing of the past, if we could put more cars on the road and have them move faster. Imagine cars moving at 130 mph, tightly packed on the freeway, and it’s safer than our freeways are today. That is interesting.