“Knowledge is power”, they used to say long before we knew how true that would turn out to be.
If we wish to increase our knowledge of any subject imaginable, all we need to do is use our computer. We are getting countless answers in less time than it takes to type the question. From Google.
That company does not produce a product, but provides knowledge. And Google makes a lot of money doing that. So much money in fact, that the ’brains’ behind it were able to do all sorts of other useful things.
One pursuit that gained much publicity lately is the self-driving cars Google has driving around in their neighborhood – autonomous vehicles (AV), in trade jargon.
Automakers have been testing AVs for a number of years, but Google is one of very few firms outside the automotive industry delving into this complex kind of research and engineering.
In 2005 the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) and Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory answered a challenge from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to develop self-driving vehicles for the US military. The university equipped a VW SUV with a variety of sensors and gave it a name. Stanley won the first driverless competition in an off-road test. Two years later a Volkswagen Passat placed second in the DARPA Urban Challenge – in actual city traffic. In 2010 an Audi TT drove the famous Pikes Peak hill-climb without a driver. You can follow the car up the treacherous mountain in this video.
Volvo is testing a convoy of trucks and cars in northern Europe; Mercedes has tested freight-hauling trucks on eastern European roads in self-driving mode for years; the Renault-Nissan alliance is testing autonomous EVs in France and Japan; Daimler now promotes their top line S-Class Mercedes to be production-ready for autonomous driving at the end of this decade, as do others.
Certainly, other carmakers are following the same pursuit of making driving safer, helping drivers with computer-controlled assistance systems, which react much faster than any human could.
Google surprised the industry when it recently announced that it will manufacture (not clear if another company will do it for them) 100 of small proof-of-concept driver-less vehicles – without steering wheel and pedals; — another automotive start-up trying to duplicate the success Tesla is experiencing?
Industry pie in the sky? Hardly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) participated in the recent Connected Vehicles Conference in Ann Arbor. The gathering of industry and government decision-makers was hosted by the University of Michigan‘s Transportation Research Institute.
As more information becomes available on this interesting development, we will follow up and report on technology that should help to take the dent out of accident for alternative transportation of the not too distant future.
Stay tuned for more exciting news…..