Imagine you have a 90+ old parent who refuses to give up their driving. They have already been in several fender benders but won’t hear about giving up the keys.
I can remember some very pointed conversations with my dad. At 90 he was still driving. I was the passenger, and dad was giving me a tour of his Boca Raton Century Village complex.
He was pointing out the clubhouse on his right, and the next thing I know we are on the sidewalk. The sidewalk, where people walk. After a quick adjustment he manages to drive the car back on the street. So I say what any self respecting son would say in the same situation.
Dad- were you aware that you just drove onto the sidewalk? He gives me his all so hearty laugh and says, I am. It happens every once in a while.
Depending on your age, I know what you’re thinking. Another overprotective son, trying to exert control over his dad by taking away his car keys. Before I answer that concern let me tell you another incident.
Again I’m a passenger and dad is driving. (You’d think I should know better).We approach a red light, he goes right through it. Thank God the road was empty. That wasn’t the most disturbing part. Again I ask him dad, are you aware that you just went through a red light? He begins with the same laugh. He says usually Gerry (his wife) is sitting in the front seat and she tells me to stop the car. Note to reader- Gerry approaching 90 herself, hasn’t driven a car for 10 years!
Now imagine we roll the clock ahead 10 years. Too late for my dad. The conversation is a lot more elegant. It might go something like this.
Dad or Mom- it looks like your reflexes are finally catching up with your ability to drive safely. I’m concerned about your safety, and the other drivers around you. I think its time to test drive a self driving car. It will give you all of the convenience you enjoy when driving your own car, but you don’t have to drive it. You tell it where you want to go and the car takes you there safely.
What exists today?
- Backup sensors
- Parallel parking assist (prius video)
- Auto- braking
- Lane assist when a driver drifts
- Adaptive cruise control
- Volvo’s camera + radar driver assist
What’s in development?
- Google self-driving car, has over 300,000 miles of testing
- Tesla aiming for 90% self-driven car by 2016- auto-pilot
- BMW testing autonomous features for highway driving. 2020 for public consumption
- Volvo- Self-Parking, Drive Me pilot project starting in 2017
- Audi- Making split second decisions and navigates at 150 mph, with no driver
- Mercedes, GM and Volvo all have self- driving cars in the works
- DARPA the defense research agency is looking into autonomous vehicles for the battlefields.
- Safety is the reason. Technology offers the opportunity to minimize driving mistakes people make. It turns out that humans are lousy drivers, reaction times are slow. Self driving cars potentially will save countless lives.
- Less congestion, Cars can drive right behind each other in a chain using consistent speed.
- Energy efficient. Self-driving cars will use less gas.
- Retaining dignity for the elderly, and the handicap
- Using our current infrastructure we can more intelligently use our road..
- Free time. Just think of all the time we spend in a car driving.
- Less time spent for parking. Car will park itself.
- Deliverbots- Anything delivered in 30 minutes.
- What are the human driver’s obligations in a robot controlled car?
- Who’s liable if car malfunctions?
- Street legal for testing in California, Nevada and Florida
- Nevada requires $1-3 million bond for companies testing cars.
The LIDAR system bolted to the top of Google’s self-driving car is crucially important for several reasons. First, it’s highly accurate up to a range of 100 meters. There are a few detection technologies on the car that work at greater distances, but not with the kind of accuracy you get from a laser. It simply bounces a beam off surfaces and measures the reflection to determine distance. The device used by Google — a Velodyne 64-beam laser — can also rotate 360-degrees and take up to 1.3 million readings per second, making it the most versatile sensor on the car. Mounting it on top of the car ensures its view isn’t obstructed.
Taking a drivers license away is a major thing to do. When old people are involved in fatal crashes, The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ** reports, their victims are most likely to be themselves and their equally elderly, frail passengers. By 2020, Florida’s population of persons 65 and older will double.*
While this technology will be in development for years to come, it’s my hope, that it will be easier to operate than an iphone. Or else we will be leaving our elders and the drivers who happen to be sharing the same road, in a precarious situation.