There has been a lot of focus on autonomous vehicles in the last few years, but development of the technology is complicated and expensive. A specially-modified Ford S-Max with autonomous driving technology features big at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show IFA Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin.
Really, it’s just a hop on the EURail ICE high-speed train, with a maximum speed of 186mph, to get from the Frankfurt Motor Show to the IFA Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin. You might expect Ford Motor Company to be showing off it’s latest autonomous driving technology in Frankfurt, but beat the rest of the cars to the punch with the IFA opening a full six days ahead of the Motor Show.
The Ford S-Max, a little larger than the C-Max hybrid, has been outfitted with a number of autonomous driving technologies that help to keep drivers and pedestrians safe, as well as the vehicle itself. Now, let us be clear, the Ford S-Max can’t drive itself, but it does have some communications and driving technologies that help the driver out. Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally presented the technology on Friday at 5PM.
One technology, for example, we are already familiar with, available on some Toyota and Lexus models, than can park the car in a parallel or perpendicular parking spot, but with one important addition. The Toyota can get you into a parking spot using cameras, sonar, and electronic steering, and driver input on the brake pedal, but this particular Ford S-Max can get you back out of that spot, as well, without so much as a kiss on the bumper. [Sorry, Dent Sorcerer!] Nissan Leaf has one of those in the works, as well.
A second technology, which is very interesting, is the addition of communication protocols between vehicles. There are already communication protocols between vehicles, lights and horn [maybe descriptive hand gestures?] that help drivers keep on top of constantly-changing road conditions, but vehicle networks could give drivers, or at least their vehicles, abreast of changes even further back. Imagine, a car in front starts getting into traffic congestion and has to slow down. An interconnected vehicle network could notify vehicles further back that they need to slow down before they end up in a pileup. Could it even tell the vehicles behind to change the GPS route to avoid heavy traffic, as some internet-connected GPS already do?
Have we really become so advanced that we can expect to get from place to place without ever touching the wheel, a la I, Robot or Minority Report? I’m certain that autonomous driving technology is still years away, but my other question is, “Do we want this?”
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