Autopilot advances

First it was Google testing a vehicle control system between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe to see if they could make an autopilot for a car that would handle normal driving conditions. That experiment is one of the reasons why Nevada passed a law that provides some leeway for ‘autonomous driving.’ Now Volkswagen has a self driving car (ExtremeTech). “It represents a link between today’s assistance systems and the vision of fully automatic driving,” VW said.

VW says the components are a “relatively production-like sensor platform” of radar, camera, and ultrasonic sensors plus a laser scanner and an electronic horizon. The system reads speed limit and other traffic signs, made possible because signage is common and consistent throughout Europe — something that might not be possible in the US, because speed limit signs vary between the states.

For the TLA (three letter acronym) enthusiasts, there’s LDW and LKA technologies. LDW is for lane departure warning and serves a function like those rumble strips often found on roads to alert you when you wander out of lane. LKA is for Lake Keep Assist and is an automatic steering to keep you in the center of the lane. As for the Nevada law:

It’s just a small step, authorizing the Nevada Department of Transportation to draft regulations. In a sparsely settled state outside of Las Vegas with lots of straight roads, self-driving cars would be right at home. Nevada also wouldn’t mind getting automakers to use the state for testing and research. VW’s TAP remains far from a production model, but it’s the biggest step so far. And VW’s approach means it could be just a few years off, since TAP promises automated driving only under certain conditions.

Distracted driving that leads to people running off the road or into oncoming traffic are major causes of traffic crashes in Nevada. LDW and LKA, perhaps coupled with other detectors that could determine if the driver was drunk or asleep, could possibly reduce this source of tragedy.

The future is coming and adjusting to it might be a bit difficult. Those stories about the new moho owner who set the cruise control and then got up to go to the bathroom in his rig might just take on a new aspect sometime soon.

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