Get ready to sip wine, read a book, and sleep on your evening commute

By Lea Wojciechowski Ross, Blogger for Dotten Collision ~ April 19, 2016

What is the future of automobile safety, the frequency of collision, and the activity of people while they’re in the car?  The answer may shock you and thrill you (especially if you like the idea of science fiction becoming reality!).

Can you imagine thousands of cars traveling down the highway at 100 mph with just a few inches of space between them?  Sounds like something from iRobot… but in our world, sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Not so with autonomous cars – which will be the norm sooner than most people think possible.  In the not-so-distant future, getting from point A to point B is going to be “safer, faster, more energy-efficient, more economical, and more fun” (“Driving in the Networked Age,” 2015).

General Motors, Ford, The University of Michigan, and Google are all working to put autonomous cars on the road.  According to The University Record, this endeavor requires expert knowledge of “computer science, engineering, electrical engineering, naval architecture, and marine engineering” (“Ford, U-M testing autonomous cars in snow at Mcity,” 2016).  The cars have to read and comprehend “road markings, signs, geography, landmarks, topography,” and exact position within their lane. The cars have to “know” where they are in every driving condition: sunny weather, inclement weather, dry roads, wet roads, high-density traffic, and low-density traffic.  The cars have to communicate and share information with each other.  GM is creating a “continuously updated real-time road map” with a software called Mobileye that will help make autonomous cars – for the average person – a reality.  Mobileye anticipates that it will eventually “achieve localization at an accuracy of about 10 centimeters” (compare to a typical GPS, which can pinpoint to about 10 meters) (“GM Develops Enhanced Mapping Technology to Support Autonomous Vehicles,” 2016).

Though driving is already a fairly safe activity (189 crashes for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the U.S., and only 1.04 fatal collisions per 100 million VMT, according to the Federal Highway Administration), the sheer amount of driving we do means that the toll on human life is significant.  Each year in the U.S., about 33,000 people die in car accidents (“Driving in the Networked Age,” 2015).  Human error accounts for more than 90% of all motor vehicle accidents.  While autonomous vehicles will soon be on the road, as long as the majority of cars are driven by humans, collisions will continue to occur.  Having both driverless cars and human-operated cars on the same road could in itself be quite dangerous.  Networked driverless cars will soon be a reality on the road, and human-driven cars will at some point be prohibited because they are much more dangerous than driverless cars.  A full network of driverless cars, with no human-operated cars around them, will substantially reduce fatalities and collisions, increase overall transportation efficiency, and decrease our need to pay attention while driving.  I.e., we can text, watch movies, hold business meetings, and engage in entrepreneurial ventures all we want – while driving!

Technology that results in cars that are smarter than their drivers and safer than any human-driven car?  That’s innovation for you.

For more information on this innovation that will completely change the culture of driving as we know it, check out these articles:

http://impact.govrel.umich.edu/ford-u-m-testing-autonomous-cars-in-snow-at-mcity/

http://record.umich.edu/articles/ford-u-m-testing-autonomous-cars-snow-mcity

http://www.dbusiness.com/daily-news/Annual-2016/GM-Develops-Enhanced-Mapping-Technology-to-Support-Autonomous-Vehicles/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/driving-networked-age-reid-hoffman

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