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Race To Build Driverless Cars Is In Full Throttle

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Still, in the absence of much political push-back against progress – and with corporate titan Google and virtually every car manufacturer around the globe leading the charge – a January headline in MotorTrend confidently trumpeted “The Beginning of the End of Driving.”

The end is now for one Australian mining conglomerate, Rio Tinto Alcan. The company has ordered 150 autonomous trucks for its operations, saving more than $100,000 a year on each driver it needn’t employ.

Google reports that its fleet of self-driven cars has logged more than 300,000 miles of testing without the computer systems causing an accident. (The company recently has acknowledged difficulties, however, navigating the cars through snow.)

Commuters in and around Mountain View, Calif., where Google is headquartered, are now accustomed to encountering Toyota Prius hybrids – mounted with “machine vision” cameras and emblazoned with Google stickers – seamlessly gliding through traffic.

Companies and scientists that promote computer-controlled driving note that human errors account for nine out of every 10 U.S. road fatalities.

In their visions of fully autonomous traffic, fuel would be saved and fewer vehicles would clog the streets. Families with three cars might rely on just one – taking Mom to work and returning home without a driver so others in the household can use it.

No single stroke of technology has powered the push toward self-driving cars. In fact, innovations dating back 20 or 30 years – cruise control, automatic breaking systems, GPS satellites – gradually gave rise to cars with their own minds.

Two endeavors in Kansas City reflect the variety of approaches being taken to make driving smarter:

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Posted by FanningCommunications on May 1st, 2013 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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