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How technology is bringing us closer to driverless cars

How technology is bringing us closer to driverless cars
By Euronews

<p>Imagine driving 70 km/h along a busy motorway, but nobody has hold of the steering wheel.</p> <p>Just how safe are you in a driverless car? And will we really be using them in ten years time?</p> <p>Euronews reporter Denis Loctier visited car manufacturers to look at the latest driverless prototypes being tested in real traffic. </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Why would we need self-driving cars? I asked Aria Etemad, <a href="https://twitter.com/vwgroup_en"><code>vwgroup_en</a> researcher in automated driving. Story coming up in <a href="https://twitter.com/euronews"></code>euronews</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Futuris?src=hash">#Futuris</a> <a href="https://t.co/pz8yMRr2ka">pic.twitter.com/pz8yMRr2ka</a></p>— Denis Loctier (@loctier) <a href="https://twitter.com/loctier/status/846672666388025345">March 28, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <h3>The Autopilot Test</h3> <p>Volvo and Volkswagen are offer similar hands-free driving systems.</p> <p>The cars automatically assess the situation on the road and if appropriate invite the driver to switch to autopilot.</p> <p>Birthe Finkendey, Mechanical engineer, Volkswagen Group Research said: “When certain conditions are met, such as I’m not driving faster than 130 km/h, the road has lane markings, and I am not performing any risky moves, – then I get an automatic prompt to switch to autopilot.</p> <p>“A message tells me that the autopilot is ready, and I can activate it by pressing these two buttons.”</p> <p>Daniel Tidholm, a research engineer at Volvo Car Group, said: “The car has very good knowledge of the surrounding vehicles.</p> <p>“It’s always having a safe distance with the car ahead, it’s always monitoring the traffic. </p> <p>“So in many ways I feel safer, actually, than if I would drive myself.”</p> <h3>Switch Lanes</h3> <p>These demo cars automatically stay within the road markings and match their speed to the traffic around them. </p> <p>They can also assist the driver with manoeuvres such as changing lanes or over-taking. </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/VWGroup?src=hash">#VWGroup</a>: Individual mobility redefined – autonomous driving at the touch of a button <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Sedric?src=hash">#Sedric</a> <a href="https://t.co/32zvX7aV5U">pic.twitter.com/32zvX7aV5U</a></p>— Volkswagen Group (@vwgroup_en) <a href="https://twitter.com/vwgroup_en/status/839885125831782400">March 9, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>Mr Tidholm added: “I want to change the right lane, so I double-press on the right paddle. </p> <p>“The sensors are monitoring that side, finding a good gap. </p> <p>“And if a good gap is found, the car will switch on the indicator and perform the lane change.”</p> <h3>Staying Alert</h3> <p>But these self-driving cars do not stop drivers from needing to watch the road. </p> <p>In an emergency, the controls can quickly switch back to manual. </p> <p>The driver has to stay alert.</p> <p>The manufacturers are working on perfecting the automatic settings before releasing the cars on to the market.</p> <p>This means improving the awareness of the cars.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">“Our self-driving car sees more and react quicker,” says, Senior Technical Leader in Crash Avoidance. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DriveMe?src=hash">#DriveMe</a> <a href="https://t.co/TscRBd5WH9">https://t.co/TscRBd5WH9</a></p>— VolvoCarGroup (@VolvoCarGroup) <a href="https://twitter.com/VolvoCarGroup/status/826027368972173313">January 30, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>Automated cars rely on a number of cameras, radars and other sensors to understand their environment. </p> <p>Various signals are fused together in the car’s computer brain.</p> <p>These tell the autopilot what’s happening around the car.</p> <h3>Talk To Me</h3> <p>Henrik Lind, technical expert for Volvo Car Group, said: “What we need is a vehicle that is able to understand the complete environment around us.</p> <p>“We also need to understand the other vehicles around us, and their intentions.</p> <p>“And not to forget, we’ll also need to have the human-machine interaction well-implemented in the vehicles.”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="https://twitter.com/VolvoCarGroup"><code>VolvoCarGroup</a>&#39;s Henrik Lind told me how self-driving cars will "hook up" to other cars, assembling into fascinating car trains <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Futuris?src=hash">#Futuris</a> <a href="https://t.co/br0sApqDsg">pic.twitter.com/br0sApqDsg</a></p>&mdash; Denis Loctier (</code>loctier) <a href="https://twitter.com/loctier/status/846710486829879296">March 28, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>Although confident on motorways, driverless cars can’t yet handle complex urban traffic.</p> <p>Individual cars will need to communicate not just with each other but with road infrastructure such as traffic lights, to flow through traffic safely and efficiently.</p> <p>Aria Etemad, researcher in automated driving for Volkswagen Group Research, said: “I believe for the urban scenario you cannot rely on the vehicle and the vehicle sensors only. </p> <p>“You have to be connected to your environment. </p> <p>“That means in the future we may have many sensors at the intersection.</p> <p>“Maybe laser scanners and so on, that are just understanding what is going on at this intersection, how many people are crossing the intersection and so on, pedestrians, for example. </p> <p>“And then this information has to be shared with the vehicle, so the vehicle is seeing more than by its own sensors only.”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Left turn in a city is “basically a nightmare for an automated vehicle”, highways much easier — Aria Etemad, <a href="https://twitter.com/vwgroup_en"><code>vwgroup_en</a> researcher <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Futuris?src=hash">#Futuris</a> <a href="https://t.co/9hJXZ8E6Jr">pic.twitter.com/9hJXZ8E6Jr</a></p>&mdash; Denis Loctier (</code>loctier) <a href="https://twitter.com/loctier/status/846680433022644225">March 28, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <h3>Driving Side-by-Side</h3> <p>It will take years of research and development to get self-driving cars working together.</p> <p>Engineers at <a href="http://www.mines-paristech.eu/"><span class="caps">MINES</span> ParisTech</a> university in Paris are designing algorithms to help automated cars coordinate their manoeuvres.</p> <p>Arnaud de La Fortelle, director of the center for robotics at the university, said: “The problem is that there’s a contradiction between two objectives, the faster I go, the less confident I am.</p> <p>“If I want to be really confident, I go very slowly, and that’s not efficient.</p> <p>“So how do we increase both at the same time?</p> <p>“For that, we need not only a good system of communication, but also good algorithms.”</p> <p>In this computer simulation, selfdriving cars cross an intersection while wirelessly coordinating with each other. </p> <p>But in real life, communication problems might occur.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="fr" dir="ltr">«Véhicules 100 % autonomes : pas pour demain» A. de La Fortelle, Dir. <span class="caps">CAOR</span> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MinesParisTech?src=hash">#MinesParisTech</a> <a href="https://t.co/x7j1CtNI32">https://t.co/x7j1CtNI32</a> v/ <a href="https://twitter.com/FR_Conversation"><code>FR_Conversation</a> <a href="https://t.co/VmoBKJ3iEf">pic.twitter.com/VmoBKJ3iEf</a></p>&mdash; MINES ParisTech (</code>MINES_ParisTech) <a href="https://twitter.com/MINES_ParisTech/status/844469955886243840">March 22, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>Zhiyuan Yao, researcher in intelligent transportation at <span class="caps">MINES</span>, explained: “The more realistic a simulation is, the more problems there will be. </p> <p>“But we’re trying to take all these problems into consideration – in this way, we can solve them step by step.”</p> <h3>Are drivers off the hook?</h3> <p>All this means drivers will be left with little to do.</p> <p>A distracted driver may miss warnings to take back control of the car.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Driverless cars and their impact on traffic and safety <a href="https://t.co/ytmmL16uqT">https://t.co/ytmmL16uqT</a> <a href="https://t.co/uopnzOwG5P">pic.twitter.com/uopnzOwG5P</a></p>— Autonomous Car Newz (@Autonomous_Newz) <a href="https://twitter.com/Autonomous_Newz/status/844162474060451840">March 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>The autopilot system should do its best to either keep driving or stop safely.</p> <p>Researchers at the <a href="http://www.dlr.de/dlr/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-10002/">German Aerospace Center</a> in Braunschweig are developing a futuristic way of helping drivers of automatic cars stay alert.</p> <p>They’ve installed <span class="caps">LED</span> lights around the inside of the car, which change colour in response to danger.</p> <p>As driverless technology gets safer and more efficient, researchers hope within 15 years autonomous cars will be increasingly common.</p>