The idea of a driverless car has been around for a long time but now the fantasy has edged closer to reality with Mercedes testing one of its prototypes in time for the Frankfurt Motor Show.
It covered 100 kilometres without a hitch.
Nissan is hot on its heels – or should that be wheels. The Japanese manufacturer has said it will have self-driving cars on the market at affordable prices by 2020.
Company CEO Carlos Ghosn confirmed all the necessary technologies are falling into place: “The autonomous car is based on technical modules. These modules are being prepared. In fact some of these modules you’re going to see in the Infiniti cars, or the Nissan cars, or the Renault cars coming before 2020. But assembling all these modules to make the autonomous car? I think 2020 is a very reasonable date, and by the way I don’t think ours will be the only one coming in 2020.”
You hop in, tell it where to go and sit back and relax. It may sound like science fiction, but many of the key elements are here already. Satellite navigation is now routine,some models can park themselves, or detect other cars and pedestrians. The challenge is putting it all together in a reliable, safe and affordable way.
Eberhard Kaus, head of the Autonomous Driving team at Mercedes-Benz, explained how their model works: “The radar sensors are positioned in the bumpers. The cameras are hidden in the central mirror and there are some computers – that are not standard yet – that process all the incoming data. We are convinced that this technology will make fewer mistakes than a human.”
An autonomous car is not just for lazy drivers, productivity could leap if drivers were free to do other things. Congestion could be reduced with vehicles that always take the best route from A to B, saving fuel. And since most car crashes are caused by human error, a reliable driverless car could also save lives.