Program For Performance: The Car That Could Learn to Drive on It’s Own


Imagine our highways flowing efficiently, the lanes filled with intelligent driverless vehicles using computers and satellites to eliminate gridlock and reduce fuel consumption.  Thanks to an emphasis on science and engineering, as well as expanding the scope of engineering programs to include things like non traditional things like online graduate degree courses and supplementary K-12 courses, the era of the autonomous car is a lot closer than you might think.  Cars like the 2011 Infiniti M56 already use radar to track cars in front and cameras to keep the car within the lane lines.  The M56 operates the throttle and brakes to maintain a safe following distance, and can even uses the brakes one at a time to keep the car in the middle of the lane.

The car of the future is soon to become the car of the present.  The US military is expressing serious interest in this new technology that has potential commercial and personal applications as well.  The U.S. Department of Transportation has commenced study of “smart road” technology to tackle problems of congestion, including an integrated intelligent highway system with wireless transponders that would communicate with GPS units in cars to keep traffic flowing efficiently.

As with any new technology, these cars will at first sport a hefty price tag.  The goal of developers, however, is for these to be the standard cars on the road in the future.  What is in the works is an entire revamp of modern transportation.  New highway technologies will work together with automobile technologies.  This new vehicle communications system will provide traffic information and safety warnings to onboard computers, which will also use GPS technology to navigate the highways.  As technology improves and becomes more readily available, prices will come down, making the cars more affordable at the consumer level.

Think this is all a science fiction fantasy?  Think again.  Students at the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford University are currently designing an autonomous car to conquer Pikes Peak.  Cornell University students are working on an all-terrain vehicle for the US military.  Surprisingly, researchers at Google are leading the way, having created an autonomous Toyota Prius fleet that has logged over 140,000 driver-free miles!  Cars currently in development are fuel powered, hybrid, and electric cars.  The expectation is that these cars will be fully automated and fully electrical, eliminating both traffic congestion and our dependency on foreign oil.

The autonomous vehicle is on its way.  Straight out of Knight Rider and Batman, the car of the future is almost here.  Imagine how much safer the streets would be with cars pre-programmed to obey speed limits and traffic laws.  Driver error, the cause of the majority of traffic fatalities, would be practically eliminated.  Vacationing in an RV would become much more relaxing, with retirees spending less time driving and more time relaxing and enjoying the scenery.  Prepare yourself, the driverless car is no longer a pipe dream. It’s coming to a road near you.

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