Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Google CEO Larry Google and Page Co-Founder Sergey Brin pose in a Google self-driving car in Jan. 2011.
(Image: © Google)
Ordinary Americans can’t buy intelligent, self-driving cars yet just, however the technology could someday revolutionize among the nation’s most common road rituals — the morning and evening commutes that bookend the workday for thousands of people.
The transformation of this bleary-eyed, coffee-chugging routine won’t happen overnight — Nevada just issued the world’s first license for a self-driving vehicle to Google on, may 7. However the gradual switch to a hands-off driving approach promises perks including saving on gas money, faster commutes and the blissful luxury of texting on smartphones without risking a crash.
«We have been focusing on this and great deal of thought for days gone by 10 years roughly,» said Peter Stone, director of the training Agents Research Group at the University of Texas in Austin. «The idea of the research is to consider the implications for having all or the majority of the cars on the highway being autonomous.»
Have a rest on the highway
Today’s drivers must quit hours of their day to the daily drive backwards and forwards from work. Tomorrow’s self-driving car owners can settle back the comfort of their ride to obtain a start work emails, see the news headlines or catch through to a favorite Television show — all without fretting about getting lost, switching lanes on the road or squeezing into tiny parking spaces.
«These types of systems is to the stage where you can flip a switch and they’re going to be fully autonomous,» Stone told InnovationNewsDaily. «Many cars can already park themselves and also have active cruise control.»
Goodbye to red lights
Traffic lights may go extinct once self-driving cars rule the street. Tomorrow’s self-driving cars could «talk» wirelessly using an automated system that calculates the paths for cars to create turns or whiz through intersections without stopping.
Such intersections could shrink average road delays by as much as 100 times in the most extreme circumstances, Stone said. He and his colleagues previously created a simulation showing cars streaming past each other at an intersection with only the slightest slowdowns in speed — a somewhat terrifying sight for today’s drivers. But such changes would only be possible everyone owns a self-driving car once.
«We discovered that most advantages of autonomous intersections don’t really activate until most cars on road are autonomous [a 90 percent penetration level],» Stone explained. «But at every point on the way, we found small benefits for individuals with autonomous cars.»
Save well on gas money
Early adopters of self-driving cars could find themselves stopping less often to fill on gas (or recharge the batteries of electric or hybrid plug-in cars). That’s just because a self-driving car could quickly and precisely calculate just how much to step on the gas pedal or when to start braking before an end sign.
«Imaginable the power of cars to accelerate or decelerate much more smoothly on our current roadways, so that they reduce fuel use and emissions,» Stone said.
Some penny-pinching drivers already practice «hypermiling» ways to avoid wasting fuel with excessive acceleration or braking. But self-driving cars could spread such energy-saving habits to everyone automatically.
People on today’s roads face a gauntlet of distracted drivers, drunk drivers or sleepy drivers. Self-driving cars could go quite a distance toward eliminating such dangers by firmly taking over control from addled, error-prone human drivers — particularly if self-driving cars talk to one another to discuss road or traffic conditions.
The rise of self-driving cars may possibly also reduce number of crashes and deaths among vehicle drivers and passengers. About 33,000 people die on U.S. each year roads, according to a AAA study conducted by Cambridge Systematics in 2011. Total U.S. crashes tacked on the added financial cost of almost $300 billion annually.
Shared cars for everybody
Self-driving cars may finish up cementing the imagine private car ownership, however they could also noticeably raise car-sharing among those that don’t own cars — a hybrid of car-rental programs such as for example Zipcar and automated roving taxis. That could allow even individuals who don’t own cars to become listed on in on the newly improved work commute of the 21st century.
Such car-sharing will make more efficient usage of cars that could otherwise sit idly in parking lots throughout the day. The cars may possibly also come right to someone’s home for pickup, instead of requiring visitors to walk to the nearest car-share parking lot.
«Its not necessary so many cars parked and taking on space if they could possibly be driving off by themselves to be reused,» Stone said.
This whole story was proviede by InnovationNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. You can follow Senior Writer Jeremy Hsu on Twitter @ScienceHsu InnovationNewsDaily. Follow InnovationNewsDaily on Twitter @News_Innovation, or on Facebook.