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Old 07-19-04, 06:44 AM
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Default Self-Driving Vehicles

Dream autos must have ability to sense their surroundings

By Nick Bunkley / The Detroit News


DEARBORN — After a long week at work, the last thing you need is to battle Friday evening traffic on Interstate 75 for the hourlong drive that used to take 20 minutes.

So you hop in the car, tell it you’re heading home, and relax with a novel until you pull into the driveway.

It’s a scenario that has been dreamed about for decades — and one that auto industry experts agree is now close to becoming reality. Automakers are beginning to outfit their vehicles with technologies that are the first steps toward self-driving cars.

“We’re entering the world now of what we call smart driver assistance,” said Alan Taub, executive director of research and development at General Motors Corp. “That will give us the learning curve toward what eventually will be autonomous driving.”

Exactly when driving can mean nothing more than sitting back and watching the scenery whiz by is unknown. But GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, in an article he wrote for Fortune magazine last month, said that day could arrive in less than two decades.

“Someday soon,” Lutz said, “you’ll be able to start the car, punch in the appropriate settings, then swivel the front seats around and play cards and eat lunch as if you’re riding on a train.”

And if the prospect of barreling down the highway surrounded by driverless cars sounds frightening, think of what goes on in many vehicles today. At least the cars and occupants won’t be distracted by yakking on a cell phone, tending to kids in the back seat or putting on makeup, experts point out.

Cars that can control themselves and even communicate with each other are also expected to reduce congestion by determining the most efficient route, merging properly and avoiding accidents.

But before that can happen, researchers need to figure out how to go from the systems hitting the market now — lane departure warnings, blind-spot detection, parking aids and cruise control that changes the vehicle’s speed in response to the car ahead — to a vehicle that can actually sense its environment.

“Ultimately you have to be able to see what you normally do when you drive a car, which is to look all around you and recognize the presence of other vehicles,” said Gary Strumolo, Ford Motor Co.’s manager of vehicle design, research and advanced engineering. “That’s a very challenging task.”

Far more complex, Strumolo said, than the autopilot systems on airplanes. A self-driving car must be able to not only follow lanes on a road, but also react to other traffic and see obstacles such as potholes and pedestrians.

“Driving a plane is less complicated than driving a car on the highway when there are many other vehicles close by,” he said.

“Think about sometimes when you see a car up ahead and you just sense that this person is going to be pulling over into your lane,” Strumolo said. “Your brain has been honed and you recognize certain cues. Think about how hard that is to program that into a mechanical system.”

The idea of self-driving cars is almost as old as the automobile itself. At the New York World’s Fair in 1939, GM exhibited cars that automatically followed magnetic strips laid in roadways.

Until recently most experts thought magnetic strips were the key to cars that could drive themselves. But the cost of installing such devices would be enormous, requiring every mile of pavement to be torn up and rebuilt.

Now, researchers are confident the future rests in on-vehicle cameras and sensors, which are becoming less expensive but more complex, in concert with minor changes to infrastructure such as traffic signals that beam wireless signals to vehicles.

Anti-lock brakes were among the first devices to sense a vehicle’s environment and react accordingly. Some vehicles today have features like adaptive cruise control, which uses radar to detect how close other vehicles are on a highway.

“A vehicle equipped with adaptive cruise control already do a little bit of driving on its own, using the engine or the brakes to adjust its speed,” said Maria Kremer, engineering manager at Siemens VDO Automotive AG in Auburn Hills. “It takes away some of the monotonous tasks from the driver.”

Even before most people have driven a vehicle with adaptive cruise control, Siemens is developing the next generation of the technology that will allow a car to automatically stop and go in city traffic. Siemens is also working on displays that project images of traffic signs in front of the driver, advanced night vision imaging and smart navigation systems, all of which are at least four or five years ago.

Meanwhile, engineers at Ford are testing lane-departure warnings linked to sensors that can tell when a driver is dozing off. The Dearborn automaker just completed a study in its VIRTTEX simulator using steering-wheel vibrations, rumble-strip sounds and light displays on the windshield to alert drivers when their eyes close and the car began drifting.

Next up for Ford is a test combining lane-departure warnings with collision-warning sensors and adaptive cruise control.

At GM, Taub said, scientists are conducting internal demonstrations of a system that permits vehicle-to-vehicle communication, letting cars effectively see around corners or over hills with information sent by the vehicle ahead. GM also expects to integrate global-positioning systems that are accurate to within centimeters that can determine a car’s exact location on a road.

For now, DaimlerChrysler AG is focused on technology that gives drivers better control rather than taking control away from the drivers, Chrysler Group spokesman Cole Quinnell said. Quinnell said the automaker believes customers are more interested in making the driving experience more enjoyable through cars such as the sporty new Chrysler 300.

“It’s so fun to drive,” Quinnell said. “I couldn’t imagine a customer driving that saying, I’d rather not actually drive.’”

That sentiment is a major factor in the push toward autonomous vehicles. GM’s Lutz, known for his love of driving, said the advancing technology “is something of a disgrace. But it’s a necessary disgrace.”

Accordingly, Taub said, researchers do not expect driving to ever disappear entirely.

“There’s an emotional attachment to the vehicle,” Taub said. “A lot of people enjoy driving. Why would you want to take that away from them? We need to prepare for a mixed world where people can drive when they want to, and they can get assistance when they need it.”

Either way, that workday stress can end when the drive home begins.



Emerging auto technology

Automakers and suppliers are developing ways to engineer the self-driven car or truck. A look at some of the features:

Implemented by 2007

* Adaptive cruise control: Changes vehicle's speed to stay a fixed distance behind car ahead on a highway.

* Lane-departure warnings: Alerts driver when car crosses lane markings.

* Blind-spot detection: Senses objects near vehicle that driver can't see in mirrors.

* Parking aid: Alerts driver when vehicle nears other cars or objects.

* Night vision: Uses radar to detect heat and provide image of deer, other objects in dark.



More emerging auto technology

In development, available 2008-09

These combine warning systems with ability to alter car's direction or speed:

* Stop-and-go adaptive cruise control: Varies vehicle speed in city traffic.

* Follow function: Allows vehicle to automatically follow vehicle ahead.

* Lane keep: Steers vehicle to stay within lane markings.

* Driver monitoring: Detects when driver is distracted and attempts to eliminate source of distraction, such as blocking cell-phone signal.

* Traffic-sign assistant: Projects image of speed-limit and other traffic signs in front of driver.

* Sensitive guidance: Gives directions to destination if driver appears to be in wrong lane or unaware of approaching highway exit.

* Overtaking assist: Alerts driver to safest place to pass.


Future technologies, availability uncertain

These require less intervention by driver:

* Highway assistant: Allows vehicle to drive itself on a highway.

* Collision mitigation: Takes action to avoid impending crash.

* Electronic bumper: Deploys various devices to prevent impending front-end collision with pedestrian or other object.

* Lane-change assistant: Steers vehicle into adjacent lane while detecting movements of other vehicles.

* Electronic mirror: Uses cameras to let driver monitor other vehicles in windshield display.

Source: Siemens VDO Automotive



Link HERE

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Old 07-19-04, 10:17 AM
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AWESOME! I hope a self-driving car arrives before I get too old to drive.
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Old 08-31-05, 08:05 AM
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Default The Self-Driving Car comes closer . . . . . .

Aug 25th 2005
From The Economist print edition




The self-driving car comes closer—but difficulties remain

IT IS an old chestnut—a car that drives itself—but General Motors, the world's largest car manufacturer, has become the latest company to claim to be building one. The car uses updated technology combined with several existing innovations and, according to the manufacturer, could be in production by 2008. But, while the technology takes some of the boring bits out of driving, it falls far short of an automatic taxi service and, anyway, various legal, technical and social barriers to its introduction remain.

The latest prototype currently being tested is based on an Opel Vectra, a mid-sized family car. It is undergoing evaluation near the headquarters of Adam Opel, General Motors' European subsidiary in Rüsselsheim, Germany.

The car has automatic cruise control of the sort fitted to many expensive cars such as Jaguars and BMWs. These use either radar or infrared beams fitted to the front of the car to measure the distance to the car in front. That distance is kept constant by automatic acceleration and braking.

But conventional automatic cruise control fails at speeds of less than 30kph (20mph). To circumvent this problem, the new car uses lidar—short for “light detection and ranging”—a measuring technology similar to radar but which uses laser beams rather than radio waves to measure distance and determine the speed of other vehicles. As light waves have shorter wavelengths than radio waves, the technology works at shorter distances and lower speeds. Indeed, the prototype has a distance-keeping system that will brake to a standstill, and move off again when the car in front moves.

This advanced version of automatic cruise control works alongside a system that corrects the car when it drifts out of its lane. Almost two million accidents a year worldwide are thought to be caused by drivers inadvertently changing lanes, frequently caused by drowsiness.

At present, only a few cars have lane-departure warning systems. In America, the technology is available on the FX45 model from Infiniti, Nissan's luxury car division. In Europe, the Citroën C4 and C5 models have it while, in Japan, some Toyota models are fitted with it. These systems use camera images or near-range radar to determine the direction and position of the vehicle in relation to lane markings. When the system recognises that a lane departure is imminent, it bleeps or flashes to alert the driver. Some systems even try to rouse the driver by making the steering wheel or the seat vibrate.

Again, the new car takes this a step further. A camera mounted on the windscreen behind the rear-view mirror gives a clear view of the road ahead, picking up the white lines even in poor visibility or where the paint has faded. The camera works in conjunction with laser beams mounted in the headlamp unit. There is a second advantage to using lasers in preference to radar: while they have a similar range, laser sensors have a significantly wider field of vision. Existing systems can see only straight ahead and the nearside lane marking. The prototype can see more than twice as widely as this. Together, the camera and laser sensors monitor the white lines and, if the car strays out of its lane, an electronic control unit attached to an electric power-steering unit corrects it.

The system is unlikely to have a smooth ride into production, however, despite achieving what General Motors says is a very high level of reliability during the development stage. Several obstacles stand in the way.

For example, self-steering cars are currently illegal in most European countries. Carmakers want the law changed to allow them, but they are also keen not to be held legally responsible for any accidents which result. Drafting legislation which would make it attractive for carmakers to introduce the technology, but still allow some recourse for those hurt if something goes wrong, could prove tricky.

In addition, most people relish driving. One reason why people feel safer in their cars than on public transport is because they are in control of the vehicle.

Moreover, whether in the stop-go traffic of the daily rush hour or on the motorway, the system relies on having a car in front that is travelling to the same destination. On the open road, the driver must drive.

Still, the technology appears affordable. General Motors says it is looking at a price of less than €1,500 ($1,830) to have it fitted to a new range of cars due in 2008.

European governments have set a target of halving road deaths by 2010. General Motors hopes that improved technology can help meet that goal.

source : economist.com
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Old 08-31-05, 08:31 AM
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Ya, that's what I want... a car company that can't even figure out how to make brackets correctly designing a car that's supposed to control itself on the road. I think I'll take my chances with my "primitive" human skills.
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Old 08-31-05, 08:35 AM
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I thought the Crown Majesta already had such a system.
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Old 07-05-06, 10:40 AM
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Default The Self-Driving VW Golf . . .

The self-driving Golf that would give Herbie a run for its money
By RAY MASSEY, Daily Mail

18:00pm 30th June 2006


The new self-driving Golf

It has proved one of the most endearing of cinematic legends - a loveable car with a mind of its own that can drive itself.

And for 40 years Herbie - or the 'Love Bug' - as the Volkswagen Beetle was dubbed in its first movie outing - has enthralled millions of families in a series of Hollywood sequels.

Watch video footage of the self drive car HERE

But now German car giant Volkswagen has turned fiction into reality by unveiling a fully automatic car which really can drive itself - and at speeds of up to 150mph.

It can weave with tyres screeching around tricky bends and chicanes, and through tightly coned off tracks - without any help or intervention from a human.

The remarkable car is the VW Golf GTi '53 plus 1' codenamed after the number '53' which Herbie carried when racing in his big screen adventures.

The GTi has electronic 'eyes' that use radar and laser sensors in the grille to 'read' the road and send the details back to its computer brain. A sat-nav system tracks its exact position with pin-point precision to within an inch.

The car can then work out the twists and turns it has to negotiate - before setting off at break-neck speed through a laid out course on a test track.

On a race circuit, it drove itself faster and more precisely than the VW engineers could manage - and can accelerate independently up to its top speed of 150mph.

To prove it is no trick, guests were invited to design for themselves a variety of different courses - using road cones - and then watch the car fly around them on its own at a test track near their world headquarters in Wolfsburg in northern Germany.

Prototype

The astonishing prototype was developed initially to help Volkswagen engineers test their vehicles.

But in an age when rapidly advancing technology and the Big Brother State is increasingly taking responsibility away from the driver - with the onward march of electronic speed limiters, collision avoidance systems, cruise control, satellite navigation, and pay-as-you-drive road tolling - the self-driving robot car is not such a distant prospect.

And many of the elements which make up its engine will be making their way into showroom cars within just a few years - just as sat-nav, collision avoidance sensors and anti-lock brakes have done in recent years.

A Volkswagen spokesman said: 'It really is a self-driving Golf. It steers, brakes and accelerates. And it races through handling courses independently. It can accomplish this at full performance and at the limits of its capabilities.'

'We called it '53' because it is reminiscent of the cinematic Volkswagen bug Herbie, which made history as the first self-driving Volkswagen. This time we've done it for real.'

'The computer calculates where and at what speed the GTi has clearance between the cones. The GPS satellite enables navigation to within less than an inch.'

source HERE
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Old 07-05-06, 11:49 AM
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Very, very impressive!! This is so much more advanced than even the Toyota's combination of Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, and VDIM! Driving like a pro (better than most pros actually) at speeds up to 150mph (which practically means ANY speed), wow!! Ze German engineering is truly a force to be reckoned with.

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Old 07-05-06, 02:34 PM
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Fine. Interesting technology, but aren't we putting the cart before the horse a little here? Cars were designed to move PEOPLE, not robots.

And just imagine if terrorists ever get a hold of technology like this and are able to load up the car with explosives and guide it wherever they want.

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Old 07-05-06, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by mmarshall
Fine. Interesting technology, but aren't we kinda putting the cart before the horse a little here? Cars were designed to move PEOPLE, not robots.
Huh? What are you talking about? This is a robotic car that CAN move people. How is this not a great advancement towards the future of driver-free personal transportation?
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Old 07-05-06, 02:40 PM
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Originally Posted by XeroK00L
Huh? What are you talking about? This is a robotic car that can move people. How is this not a great advancement towards the future of driver-free personal transportation?
OK...I understand the point you are trying to make. You're apparantly talking about passengers in the car being chauffered around by a robot. Well, that way they can yak on the cell phones and fumble with laptops all they want.

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Old 07-05-06, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by mmarshall
OK...I understand the point you are trying to make. You're talking about passengers in the car being chauffered around by a robot. Well, that way they can yak on the cell phones all they want.
Yup, and that's a good thing isn't it? I mean, the fact is that the MAJORITY of people, unlike many of us enthusiasts, don't like to drive. They'd rather be doing something else while they commute or travel. One day when this technology is perfected and applied to production cars, those who are on cell phones all the time will be able to still do their talking, but the difference is that they won't be a road hazard anymore, with robots that drive better than most pros chauffeuring their cars around.

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Old 07-05-06, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by mmarshall
And just imagine if terrorists ever get a hold of technology like this and are able to load up the car with explosives and guide it wherever they want.
And just imagine the US Army sending in a troop of manless vehicles to precisely deliver a massive "suicide" attack to the terrorists. The only difference between this and a regular suicide attack is that no one in the US Army will need to sacrifice.

Imagine THIS:
https://www.clublexus.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=182588
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Old 07-05-06, 03:22 PM
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Oh I can already hear the excuses...


"Honest, officer, I wasn't speeding. It was my car's choice to go that speed."
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Old 07-05-06, 03:28 PM
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Part of the safety of a system like this will depend, of course, on how sophisticated the robot's " eyes " are. For instance, if you have tried to stay in your lane on a wet road at night with faded lane markings you'll know what I mean.......it can be quite difficult. Infiniti already has a lane-warning drift device on some of its cars but it still depends on a camera and the camera has to be able to actually SEE the lane markings. Then, of course, you run into the problem of snow-covered roads with no markings at all.
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Old 07-05-06, 03:31 PM
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Another thought here...


... I'm not sure I'm ready to trust German electronics with complete control of the vehicle I'm in. I had a 98 Camaro SS with the factory Bosch cruise control system on it. One day the cruise control system, without even being turned on, decided it was time to "cruise" at wide open throttle. Trying to pull out of a parking space with 400 horses at constant WOT is not my idea of a good time.

... Then there was the Mercedes SLs that my ex-gf used to own that had a tendency to shut off the airbag system while the vehicle was in motion. Driving 75 down the freeway when the airbag light starts blinking furiously is also not my idea of a good time.

... bottom line... I think I'll stick with my "manually" controlled Japanese machines, thanks.
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