A small French company, Induct, launched its first commercial autonomous vehicle,Navia, in January 2014. Navia carries up to eight passengers and costs around $250,000. It is expected to be used in airports, university campuses, stadiums and arenas and costs 40 per cent less than traditional shuttles. Instead of detecting obstacles using GPS and coordinates information, it uses lasers to avoid obstacles. However, its speed limit is just 12.5 mph. For safety there is an emergency button in case of accidents. Passengers can communicate with Navia via their smart devices to specify destination.
What is remarkable in this case is that Navia does not need any prior infrastructure to guide itself therefore it is expected to work on any sort of site. As the starter of autonomous vehicles, it is even more meaningful to the later development as it kind of paves the way for the future autonomous vehicles.
In Peter Phleps’s talk, he came up with several new concepts while summarizing and predicting what is going to happen in the future. Firstly, he mentioned autonomous vehicles not only facilitate the life of the elderly and the handicapped, but also people, he called, “super-commuters”, by which he means people could have more working space and time during their commuting. Therefore fluent working process will be guaranteed seamlessly. Secondly, he said more car ride sharing could be widely used and living rhythms would be more efficient for urban people. Afterwards, several drawbacks were mentioned, for example congestion and the number of cars will be increased due to the easy access and controls of cars. Finally, he summarized the whole presentation by going back to the old question: Could autonomous vehicles be morally accepted by people? Actually, we do believe autonomous vehicles are always technically feasible, however, what is in the way is that if they are desirable to all the relevant people. So, it can be a brand-new topic for Beyond Engineering in Group T
For now, the vehicles are still the most dangerous way to travel, when compared to the train and airplane. There are always some drivers they are not really reliable. Maybe they are just careless, they are drunk or just because they are not really good at driving. If you meet the emergency situations, an experienced driver may take some special actions to avoid accident. But these things are too “strange” and difficult to handle because of the unpredictability of these careless drivers.
So in conclusion, if you want to have the autonomous vehicles and human driving vehicles together on the road, the human drivers must also change a little bit and reach a higher level.
That’s another challenge may make the driver license harder to get.
The ORCA racing project is about controlling autonomous model vehicles along a predefined path and racing between cars. It is done by ETH Zurich while having the purpose of studying high-speed and real time control. As it might be known, offline control in most of the cases is ok because of the lack of time limitations about calculating the control signals, however, online real time can be very different due to intensive timing steps. Numerous online real time strategies have been done by research though still being extremely promising in this field. The linked video clearly shows the great achievements by ORCA team and the comparison between old PID controller and new MPC control is simply incredible as it enhances the beliefs that the future of autonomous vehicles is attractive with the growing controllability! More interesting can be found on https://sites.google.com/site/orcaracer/videos.
During a panel discussion about the ethical aspects of autonomous vehicles, “Autonomous Vehicles: The Road to the Driverless Car,”Altera said this at the headquarter in San Jose.
Because there are no real drivers operating the car, it is not clear to say who is supposed to be responsible for the car accidents, if unavoidable.
It is interesting to note that two decades ago, there were discussions about whether to build smart roads to guide vehicles, however governments were not willing to invest in such infrastructure construction. However, currently the issue is shifted to vehicles itself. It is still challenging to let systems guide themselves. Image sensors and radars are common ways to solve this problem, whereas, they are easily interfered with environment, for instance their speed to response and their sensitivity to low-light conditions.
As known, Google is engaged in this field as well, so there have been lots of discussions on this done by Google. Apart from the question on who to blame when car crashes, there are still problems which are given below:
Considering there are still lots of people making livings by driving, the impact brought by autonomous vehicles can be huge.
2. Conformity to laws
Do autonomous vehicles conform to local laws and international laws? What changes need to be made to current laws?
3. Trolley problem
The choice about killing pedestrians or killing the car itself.
An interesting video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs0E69krO_Q
Though still a lot discussions on ethics, the technical progress is still being highly valued due to potential benefits.