Mechanics & Locomotion

Nov 1, 2016

CLOSE FUTURE FICTION - SELF DRIVING CARS

This is an issue that got definitely into our lives and which leaves no one behind. Whether you like it or not, whether you want it or not, self driven vehicles are really going to stop including the human factor, with the purpose of reducing (who knows, even to eliminate) road accidents worldwide.

Imagine going to work and catching your everyday bus, but there is nobody in the driver's seat. Terrifying, isn't it?! Well, you'd better get use to it because that day is closer than you think. Self driving cars is definitely here to stay for our everyday life. This is a topic that still arouses passions and reasons, some for and some against, but to which no one is indifferent.

From America to Europe and to Asia, there are already several automobile manufacturers engaged in research, development and improvement of systems capable of piloting a vehicle without the aid of the human element. This system includes the use of several micro-cameras and sensors that detect any obstacle on the road and which are controlled by a central computer of extremely high processing performance and reaction, thus preventing accidents or other ties in foreign objects on the road.

Naturally, the first name that stands out as an example of such vehicle is the famous American brand Tesla. But, as we say it stands out, doesn't mean it's for the right reasons, since many accidents involving this vehicles constructor have been reported, and some of them particularly serious and fatal (we refer to, for example, what happened in Florida, United States of America, in May 2016) for its occupier.

Despite these setbacks, some the European car manufacturers have dedicated part of their efforts in the development of several systems with the same goal, standing out among them Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Alfa-Romeo, Jaguar.

What has not been easy, however, are the drive tests these manufacturers want to do before selling this type of vehicles, due to legal road security restrictions. As a simple note to these restrictions, testing the A8 model for Audi is limited to maximum speed of 60 km/h without the driver's interference and 130 km/h with driver supervision. Also about this, recently, the Transport Minister for the German government, Alexander Dobrint, sustained the installation of black boxes – as the ones used in aviation – in order to determine any responsibility in case of accident.

Asian contribution

Unlike, what we would expect, Japanese constructors are not so thrilled about these systems, betting instead on the development of the electric alternative, but that doesn't mean this subject isn't their concern, too.

Last August, Japanese Nissan began to sell the minivan model Serena in the Asian market, already with this option included. As for the European market, their foresee the inclusion of the same option for the Qashqai model, starting in 2017. Both incorporate the ProPilot system developed by the company which is based on GPS readings and is limited to driving between 30 and 100 km/h and always on the same driving strip. The manufacturer has also announced for 2018 the function to change driving strips, and intends to sell ten different models which will include this option, worldwide until 2020.

In another case, Mitsubishi set the option of applying their knowledge in the building of air-to-air missiles for the japanese army. The three-diamond brand wants to integrate other components such as precision radars, which use sensors and cameras for the detection of obstacles, thus preventing unwished and unexpected colisions. According with the main directors of the Japanese company, their project is set to integrate the largest variety of solutions and capabilities ever to gather in this type of vehicle.

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