Four Autonomous Car features that have crept up on us

Think that autonomous cars are new? Automologist, MAC, tells you why you should 'think again'. When you hear mention of auto...

Think that autonomous cars are new? Automologist, MAC, tells you why you should 'think again'.

When you hear mention of autonomous cars, you may be forgiven for thinking that so far this technology is firmly in the hands of the software companies, like Google with its Google Pod, which perhaps gives us a glimpse of the future. But major automakers are also making moves toward the age of autonomous driving. Much of the advances in autonomous features that are currently being developed are seen as advanced-safety or driver-assists, and could be seen as incremental in comparison, perhaps in much the same way that the advent of the power steering may have seemed. Or should we see them more as proof of concept for inclusion in future autonomous vehicles?

Significantly, much of the new design and “advanced-safety driver-assists” are being driven by governments in a bid to keep ‘death-off-the-roads’; in particular the US of Americaland’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), who seem to believe that whilst we, the buyer, hold our collective breath for the advent of truly robotic cars, making automation features standard will save lives.

Four technologies that we will be as au fait with in ten years’ time, as we are now with power steering, will be:

Forward Collision Avoidance

In January of this year, the NHTSA announced that it would begin to factor crash-preventing braking systems into its car-safety ratings. The systems use forward-facing sensors—which can be radar, camera or laser-based—to detect imminent collisions and either apply or increase braking force to compensate for slow or insufficient driver reaction. These systems are not particularly new - Honda was first to introduce such a system in 2003 and since that time, nearly every automaker has rolled out similar features in high and mid-range models.

Reverse Cameras

I never did work out what was wrong with using your mirrors to make sure that there is nothing behind you when you reverse, but whatever. The NHTSA has already managed to ensure that every new car sold after April 2018 in the US of Americaland will have a reversing camera. There are already reversing camera’s on many current models but putting it on them all will save an estimated 69 lives a year, mostly children.

Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication

I am not talking about walkie-talkies or mobile phones here. What is being developed is a system that helps a car communicate with another car without the knowledge or intervention of the occupants of either vehicle. The NHTSA is in the process of working out how all of the different manufacturers can get their vehicles to talk with each other, so it effects as road caravans, and advanced collision prevention can become reality.

Lane Detection

Since 2013, the NHTSA has established how to test the effectiveness of camera systems that watch existing painted lane markers and alert drivers if they drift. There are already some cars, such as the Toyota Prius, that even take over steering if a driver does not respond quickly enough to warning signals. And new 2015 models from Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen go further, using cameras and sensors to monitor surroundings and autonomously steer, change lanes and swerve to avoid accidents.

Perhaps the brave new world is actually being implemented by stealth. 

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