Race To Build Driverless Cars Is In Full Throttle


Computer engineer Don Wunsch voices an emphatic yes.

“The days of human drivers deserve to be numbered,” said Wunsch, a professor at the Missouri University of Science & Technology in Rolla. “Humans are lousy drivers. It’s about time computers take over that job.”

Others note that the rush to make autos fully autonomous, and conceivably far safer, promises to run into huge societal bumps.

In a transportation center such as Kansas City, how many truckers won’t be needed in 2025? How will insurance companies react when hands-free accidents happen – and nobody disputes they will – or roadside sensors go awry?

Will systems navigating 21st-century vehicles reach obsolescence and need costly upgrades every few years, like today’s smartphones? And, perhaps the most critical question, who will make certain these innovations will make travel less deadly?

“You have these brand new capabilities coming to the market at a time of grossly inadequate funding” of federal safety regulators, said Clarence Ditlow of the Washington-based Center for Auto Safety, a watchdog group.

Only after risky “experimentation on the road,” he said, will the public’s overall safety in a driverless world be known.

Since 2011, three U.S. states where much of the corporate testing is taking place – California, Nevada and Florida – have enacted laws legalizing driverless vehicles. Michigan, Oklahoma and New Jersey have similar bills in the works.

Nevada last year issued the first license and special plates for a self-driven car, requiring an operator at the wheel. All models in development have manual override systems to let humans take over.

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Posted by on May 1st, 2013 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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