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How modern cars already drive better than you do

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | April 18, 2013
Add sensors, lasers, and cameras, and the gap between today's heavily automated cars and tomorrow's self-driving cars is narrowing fast.

We saw some vehicle-to-X communication in action at Audi's piloted parking demonstration in Las Vegas. Audi's proof-of-concept car was able to valet and park itself, in part thanks to sensors placed around the parking garage. If Audi's piloted parking car ever comes to market, it will likely depend on infrastructure sensors in parking garages to tell it where there's an open spot.

Secure vehicle-to-vehicle networks are a long way off

Although just about every automaker is interested in researching and testing automated driving technology, none seem to share Google's optimistic timeline of three to five years.

"Google has done a fantastic job of accelerating public discussion," says Ford director of research and innovation Randy Visintainer. "But there are lots of challenges."

Some of the challenges include creating a secure vehicle-to-vehicle network, as well as making the technology affordable. "One of our mottos is 'technology for all,' and that means we need to think about how we can bring the cost down," Visintainer says.

And once the price is right, still more challenges loom.

The cars will be ready before the people are

"There are a lot of societal issues and legal hurdles," Lyons says. "There's no legal framework, so that's a big hurdle for automakers." At the moment, just three states--Nevada, Florida, and California--have legalized the testing of self-driving cars.

These laws, for the most part, don't really address the countless concerns associated with self-driving cars. Plus, in Nevada and California, the testing laws state that a licensed driver must be in the driver's seat, and the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic requires that drivers must "at all times be able to control their vehicles." So some of the cooler self-driving car ideas, such as Audi's self-valet, may never be allowed.

Finally, people just don't seem ready for self-driving cars. According to a survey by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, 75 percent of people polled expressed apprehension about totally autonomous vehicles. "They think it's neat," Lyons says. "But that it's not ready."


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