The Features and Future of the Self-Driving Car

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As cars become smarter and advance towards automation, it is interesting to look back on how drastically the automobile has changed since the beginning of the millennium. These advancements have all helped the auto industry become the fastest progressing industry since the smartphone boom. 

 

GPS Navigation Systems

“Recalculating… Recalculating… Recalculating…” Does that phrase trigger memories of frustrating road trips and attempts at navigating unfamiliar neighborhoods? If you veered off course, your TomTom or Garmin guide would immediately begin shouting out that they were recalculating, as if you needed to pull over immediately until it could tell you where to go. Imagine how many hours we spent in the early 2000s recalculating!

GPS as we know it became available to the public in 1993 when the US launched the 24th satellite needed to complete the Global Positioning System. It was the result of the Reagan Administration’s decision that GPS should be available to everyone so that civilians could avoid straying into restricted areas.

Starting in the early 2000s, people could finally ditch the maps and use websites like MapQuest to get turn-by-turn directions to their destinations and when we got tired of constantly printing out directions in the mid-2000s, standalone GPS devices like Garmin and TomTom were skyrocketed in popularity. Although anyone can get turn-by-turn directions on a smartphone now, in-vehicle navigation has gotten more reliable and safer for drivers to use.

If predictions of completely self-driving cars are to come true, future vehicles would have to be completely self-reliant on GPS to get where they’re told to go. Several companies like Microsoft, have been partnering with the biggest car companies to integrate wireless connectivity and make the transition from indoors to the road absolutely seamless.

Collision Avoidance Systems

What if all fender benders could be avoided? No damages to pay and no arguments with strangers on the side of the road. In 2003, collision avoidance systems were invented and can now be a standard feature in many new cars. Their radar sensors are able to survey their surroundings and protect you accordingly, from blind spot detection to early braking.

A study by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) in 2009 concluded that there was a 7% reduction in crashes for vehicles that had a basic forward-collision avoidance system.  This proves that by trusting this technology, the roads will be undoubtedly safer for everyone especially as more cars are equipped with it.

Intel wants to help with that too. In March 2017, Intel bought Israeli technology firm Mobileye, a leading supplier of collision-avoidance systems. Intel has a goal of producing fully autonomous vehicles by 2021 using their chips.

 

Connectivity Advancements

In 2008, mobile hotspots entered the tech world. Originally known as onboard Wi-Fi, this tech advance was created so that trucks could stay in communication with the office while they were out driving around in the field, then companies like OnStar used wireless phone networks to be able to talk directly to people in cars after they were in accidents. 

Bluetooth connectivity also makes our vehicles today much smarter. Every gadget seems to be Bluetooth enabled these days, from phones to speakers to computers to pet cameras. Bluetooth hit the scene in 2001. While your first memory of the tech might be those funny little hands-free headsets, Bluetooth is now ubiquitous. You can find them in every car on the market now, providing features like hands-free calling and voice recognition.

 

To The Future!

A self-driving car uses a 360-degree suite of ultrasonic sensors with a forward camera and a forward radar. Using that technology, the industry could actually make a car steer itself and change lanes, but they need to continue improving the reliability and safety. Big names like Toyota and GM are now investing millions of dollars in the industry, spurring startups and entrepreneurs to explore and grow the future of the self-driving car.

The automotive industry is putting a lot of attention on the development of the self-driving car trying to reach its goal of full autonomy by 2021. BMW, Intel, Volvo, Ford, Delphi and many more are all working towards this goal. At CES this year, there were several very unique looking self-driving concept cars. In a recent interview with Gizmodo, Elon Musk concluded that even if we reached full autonomy tomorrow, it would take 20 years for the road to be full of completely self-driving cars. He even said that someday, it might even be illegal to drive your own car.  

While we still may have to wait a while to enjoy being driven to work by our car, we can look forward to the amazing new technology that will be slowly transitioning into vehicles that will keep us safer and get us closer to that goal.

 

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