Driverless Cars: The Next Step in New Car Technology

Cars that drive themselves, without a remote control or human intervention, will become a reality in the near future and the Pentagon wants to be the first to take advantage of the latest robotics and new car technology.

Now in a city environment, the latest version of the Defense Department’s “Grand Challenge” will bring together some of the brightest automotive minds to compete for a $2 million prize.

Vehicles must be able to complete a 60-mile simulated military mission in an urban area in less than 6 hours. The course will be a mock city in which the vehicles will have to obey traffic laws, avoid obstacles, merge with moving traffic, park and negotiate intersections. Did we mention there wouldn’t be a driver or remote control?

It sounds impossible but the technology is already being developed in automotive research laboratories all over the world. Just a few months ago, the Defense Department sponsored a similar contest in which robot vehicles drove themselves for 132 miles of open road. The winner used a combination of sensors, cameras, GPS, lasers and computer technology.

The Pentagon plans to use the designs for military purposes by 2015. The innovations will inevitably find their way into the consumer market soon after, just like the HMMWV (Hummvee), which was also conceived in a military design competition, gave birth to today’s Hummers.

According to researchers, safe, self-driving cars could improve the nation’s highway’s carrying capacity and reduce the average traffic death toll of 42,000 per year.


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