The Evolution of Self-Driving Cars
The first car, invented by Carl Benz in 1888, was originally made to efficiently transport humans from one point to another. Now, automobile technology has been totally redefined.
The DARPA grand challenge marked the start to the driverless car industry. About 14 years ago, DARPA (United States Defense Agency) sponsored a challenge - known as “The Grand Challenge”; in hopes of implementing advanced technology into the military’s latest vehicles. While DARPA got its share of the deal by automating much of the military, this competition had inspired many to find applications to this technology in our everyday life.
DARPA’s original goal was to use the self-driving capabilities of the cars and implement those capabilities on its state-of-the-art battle vehicles. With this, the idea of a self-driving vehicle was born.
DARPA’s challenges have proven that self-driving cars are paving a path to more green and safe future. This change is simply inevitable for humanity. Driverless cars are expected to publicly hit the roads by the year 2020; and the very basic forms of autonomous car capabilities are already coming out on newer vehicles such as automatic braking, parking assist, steering assist, dynamic radar cruise control, and many more. Tesla Motors implemented an autopilot technology in its newest cars, which has already proven to be beneficial in predicting and preventing crashes.
Recently, car manufacturers began promoting efficient driving practices; including easing accelerating and braking, coasting for longer distances, and limiting engine power to prevent fuel consumption. Car manufacturers such as Nissan has made this practice almost as a game for drivers in which Nissan Leaf drivers have the goal of making a virtual tree by the end of you drive. With self-driving cars coming into picture, experts believe that their efficient, consistent, and non-aggressive driving capabilities will reduce carbon emissions.
Self driving cars will also make roads a lots safer. According to a recent report from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute show that crash rates for self-driving cars are significantly lower than the national crash rate of conventional cars,. Unlike humans, the computers controlling the car will not get drowsy, drunk, or just lazy. In correlation with self driving cars making roads safer, all cars will be equipped with highly accurate sensors which allow the computers controlling the car to have a far better reaction time than a typical human being. This not only means that they can predict crashes, but also means that smart cars could also make roads more efficient by not slowing down traffic via unnecessary merging and maintaining a specific distance from the car in front of it.
So what’s next? Self driving cars are inevitably going to continue to transform and develop. In the near future, engineers hope to see inter-car communication to allow for more optimal transport. Researchers have already created machine learning algorithms to simulate an ideal world of all self-driving cars and no traffic signals. Until that vision of accident-free roads become a reality, we must all recognize that self-driving cars and their capabilities are greatly beneficial to our society.
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