Self-driving cars are no longer a dream, at least for car manufacturers, who are competing against each other to get out on the market with the best driving assistance software that can ultimately mean safety and reduced fuel consumption.
A recent MIT Technology Review article enumerates the reasons why one should choose a car equipped with such an automatic driving assistance program. The article quotes reduced congestion and lighter/more efficient automobiles.
Nady Boules from GM’s Electrical and Controls Integration Lab tells us that the company has already proved self-parking vehicles (okay, the Prius has been doing that for a few years now). Their final aim is to have the next scenario happening: you stop the car, get off, and then let it find a parking spot for itself, park there, and when you return, you can call the car to come to your location and pick you up. Yea, I know, it sounds Night Rider-ish, but GM say they can ultimately do it by the end of the decade.
Another idea that could save fuel is vehicle-to-vehicle communication, a system that allows several cars to practically line with already “towed” ones and to synchronize their speed and direction. The cars would travel very close to each other, but they won’t rear-end because of the wireless syncing mechanism.
This would save fuel and would reduce the rate of accidents, thus eventually driving the manufacturers to the conclusion that some of today’s security mechanisms are no longer needed and can be dispensed of, thus reducing the cars’ weight and increasing the mileage per gallon.
Of course, you need a whole lot of new regulations for these cars to roam freely across the country, and there’s one final issue to be set: in case of an accident while the automatic driving system is turned on, who’s to blame? The driver or the car?