Car Talk
Autos are becoming increasingly intelligent
Tech / 25 Jul 2011
Commuters, faced with increasing instances of gridlock, are increasingly turning to walking, biking, and public transportation to get from point A to point B. While some are calling for a complete phase out of cars, innovations in automobile technology are making autos more intuitive to drivers’ needs, suggesting that our dependence on autos is not likely to diminish any time soon.
Driverless Cars: Drivers seem to find it nearly impossible to restrain their twitchy digital trigger fingers, the result of which can be crushing, literally. Enter Google and Volkswagen, both of which are currently developing driverless automobiles that utilize lasers, radar, and robotics to alleviate the need for a human operator. Last month, the state of Nevada passed Assembly Bill 511, a first step toward authorizing driverless automobiles on its roads. According to Google project leader Sebastian Thrun, nearly all accidents are caused by human error, so removing the human element makes roads safer while also maximizing fuel efficiency and freeing hands to, well, send more texts.
Talking Cars: Cars that communicate recall a certain Pixar flick, but automakers such as Ford are investing in making vehicle-to-vehicle interaction a reality. Thanks to standard in-car technology like GPS and Wi-Fi, vehicles can signal to one another faster than drivers are able to see, and react to, brake lights. Once realized, these conversant cars will not only prevent collisions, but also expedite traffic at intersections. Volvo is using wireless inter-car communication to test its “platooning" concept, in which vehicles mimic a lead car driven by a professional driver. According to German researchers, even if only .05% of cars are able to communicate, gridlock on LA’s 405 freeway could be eliminated permanently.
Flying Cars: For anyone who’s daydreamed of flying their car over a traffic pileup, that possibility might soon exist. Terrafugia is manufacturing a car-plane hybrid that transforms from one to the other in 30 seconds. A prototype of the Transition Roadable Aircraft took flight in 2009, and the first shipments are anticipated next year. The Transition can be fueled at gas stations like any land-bound car and can fly up to 450 miles on a full tank. Folding wings make it possible to park in standard garages. Access to at least 2,500 feet of runway space is needed, however, for take-off. Priced at $250,000, a $10,000 refundable deposit is all that’s needed to guarantee one now.
©The Intelligence Group