Tag Archive | "driverless cars"

Driverless On The Hockenheim Racetrack

At Germany’s Touring Car race finale at Hockenheim Audi will stage one of the most extreme piloted driving demonstrations to date. They will underscore piloted driving potential as part of the programme for the final German Touring Car Championship race at Hockenheim.

There will be a live broadcast on Audi Media TV from 12:45pm on October 19, 2014 when an autonomous car will undertake a two-minute lap time and try and achieve a speed of 149mph.

driverless Driverless On The Hockenheim RacetrackA driverless Audi RS7 Sportback will tackle Germany’s famous circuit at race speed next week to underscore the potential of their piloted driving technology. With the latest Audi developments on board, the concept car will drive autonomously to its physical limits with millimetre precision as an exciting sideshow for the Touring Car Championship (DTM) finale on the 19th.

As its sophisticated sensors guide it around the challenging circuit, the RS7 Sportback piloted driving concept car will be approximately as fast as with a professional racing driver at the wheel. Tests conducted so far indicate that on the grand prix track a lap time of just over two minutes can be expected, and that the technology demonstrator should reach speeds, as mentioned, of up to 149mph.

The performance will be broadcast live and exclusively on the Internet starting at 12:45 pm on Audi Media TV.

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Autonomous Cars On The Road By 2020

There exists a document that most people have not heard of. It is called the Vienna Convention of Road Traffic. This is the Euro-bible that basically governs what goes into Highways Codes around the Community. You would have to be really desperate for literature to read it. Somewhere around the time that you read this, new legislation will be tabled to make amendments to this earnest document.

It will allow self-driving systems to take control of a vehicle. Obviously a human has to be present to take charge if necessary but the amendment will effectively give the green light to self-driving cars.

A future world of autonomous cars has been on the cards for some years now. Various companies have been working with vehicles laden with the latest technical wizardry to bring them to us – whether we want them or not. The same manufacturers who bring us high powered sports cars are also getting in on the act but it is hard to see that a mix of self-driving and human driven cars will be compatible.

To some extent this technology is with us now. Our cars have cruise control and lane management and the like, all designed to relieve the driver of at least some of the onerous tasks of driving. These advances have certainly made cars safer and that is the view behind driverless cars. If machines can keep vehicles apart then accidents should be a thing of the past. That would be great in an ideal world.

Sadly though, we don’t live in such a Utopia. In the same way that people make mistakes then so can technology. What happens when an electrical component fails in a driverless car? It is all very well to say that the human will instantly take over but can we rely on that when push comes to shove? Eventually, people will get used to not touching the controls with the inevitable lack of concentration.

This is what presents the problem. If self-driving cars do collide or knock someone down to whom is fault assigned? If one vehicle is deemed to be responsible how can the owner be found guilty if he, like everyone else, is reliant on the car’s technology? This should cause some insurance headaches.

Nevertheless the quest for the driverless car continues apace. A couple of car makers have said that they will be bringing autonomous cars to market by 2020. Google have said that they are developing their driverless cars to become robo-taxis. All very ’Blade Runner’. The pleasures of motoring are being eroded. Soon they will be no more.

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Autonomy In Oxford

Over the last couple of years there has been much talk and some demonstration of the so-called autonomous car – cars that drive themselves. The thinking is that we don’t really like driving at all and is a function best left to the vehicle itself. Once considered a sort of Jetson’s science fiction, the reality is now coming closer.

Boffins at Oxford University, amongst others around the world, have been working on this for some time. Up to now they have only been able to test their experiment on private roads at the Begbroke Science Park but David Willetts MP, the minister for science, has been on at the Department for Transport to relax the rules and allow testing on public roads.

This all stems from the fact that in California the operation of autonomous cars on public highways was legalised last year. The demand for this was lead by mighty Google who have been working on a fleet of computer controlled vehicles for some time and are saying they could have a viable model on the roads in just five years. Mr Willetts, who has tested the Google motor, believes that this has allowed the American company to steal a march on British efforts to develop similar transport.

As a result he has persuaded the DfT to relax the rules – although they say no final decision has been reached – and allow the Oxford RobotCar team to do the same thing. The long term strategy seems to suggest that we could see driverless cars on our streets in twenty years time. Right now the experimentation is based on a Nissan Leaf which has been suitably modified with cameras and laser sensors. An on-board computer controls all the usual functions. As with America, for now, a real human being has to be in the car as well to take control if necessary.

Although the driverless car is sure to become a reality, there is still a long way to go. We already have camera and sensor technology in the cars we buy today. What needs to be achieved with absolute certainty is the ability of the car to understand and react to all the many and various different circumstances that drivers presently encounter on a daily basis.

Once that has been achieved the next stage has to be for an autonomous vehicle to navigate its way around a route that it has never travelled before. Pre-programming is all very well but it is the unknown which brings forth the challenges faced by the scientists. The feeling is that by taking away the human element, the use of cars on the road will reduce or even potentially eliminate death and injury on the road as well as aiding fuel economy.

This can only be a good thing but whether motorists will go for it is another matter. It is clearly of no interest to politicians but a great many people enjoy the experience of piloting a car and will no doubt take great exception to being told they can’t do it. It remains to be seen if our Dear Leaders will listen. Then of course there’s the insurance…

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