When Will Cars be Able to Drive Themselves?

By Phill Powell

In the future, everyone will have a chauffeur. And that chauffeur will probably be a robot.

This Google demonstration video rocks! In it, a man who has lost nearly all of his vision drives around (safely) and runs errands…while leaving the driving to the Google car.

As for now, the world is buzzing with news about self-driving cars. And why not? We’re finally moving from a point of pure speculation to actually introducing the core technology and testing it in small, controlled areas.

And the testing not only involves cutting-edge tech companies such as Tesla and Google, but established carmakers (like Audi and Mercedes-Benz) that have seen the writing on the wall and are investing billions in robotics and electrical engineering research. These companies recognize that the future of the automotive industry will look much different than its first hundred years.

The fact is that this transformation is already taking place, with carmakers constantly adding more and more technically sophisticated features that will support the driver-less future.

Google’s Five-Year Plan
One of the leading companies at the forefront of driver-less technology has been search-engine giant Google, which is using its current global clout to attempt to branch out into manufacturing. Without a doubt, it’s a bold corporate move, but Google claims to have an aggressive five-year plan to perfect its driver-less vehicle.

“Look, Ma! No hands!” For people with vision challenges, a self-driving car (like this Google car) could be a godsend, and one that restores their personal mobility and quality of life.

Making the Case for Safety
Elon Musk of Tesla Motors is a real-life Tony Stark, and just like his Avengers counterpart, Musk makes intriguing statements that are often picked up and quoted by the press. His latest: “When self-driving cars become safer than human-driven cars, the public may outlaw the latter.”

But even Musk knows that changing America’s auto industry won’t happen overnight. He has stated that the massive nature of the industry is such that it would probably take at least 20 years for the U.S. to change over to self-driving cars. “I think it’s important to appreciate the size of the automotive industrial base,” Musk said. “There’s 2 billion of them.”

And even after self-driving cars are technologically possible and practical to implement, Musk claims that Tesla’s official position will be that people who want to drive their own cars should retain that ability. He tweeted, “To be clear, Tesla is strongly in favor of people being allowed to drive their cars and always will be.”

Mercedes_F015_self-driving_carThe only way to travel: Mercedes’ F015 self-driving car, with a luxurious interior and seats that swivel.

The Drive Toward Total Automation
The Google self-driving car project can be seen as a collection of advanced robotic systems, all working together to propel, steer and stop the vehicle. Robots are becoming more important to modern life and this will only continue to grow as robotics revolutionizes more aspects of living.

Have you ever thought of spending part of your summer learning about robotics? This summer you can start your adventure in robotics by attending a Digital Media Academy robotics camp, where the focus is on hands-on learning.

At DMA tech camps, students work with the best robotics kits for hobbyists, including ‘bot-building systems from LEGO and Arduino. Learn how to build the coolest robots possible, then have your creation wage battle against robots built by others. Summer starts soon so register now!