Autonomous cars are on the horizon. in 2012 Governor Jerry Brown signed the driverless car bill which will allows these cars to be driven on public roads. The first full autonomous car is due in 2018, with various car companies including Google jockeying for position.
In California, the Google car has logged more than 300,000 miles of accident free driving.
“We still see the driver being at the center of the driving experience,” says Ford Motor Co.’s Randy Visintainer, director of research and innovation. “That’s the focus of what we’re doing.”
The “Driverless” car won’t actually be driverless. Humans are still required to sit in the driver’s seat in case of an emergency. Automates driving uses a combination sensors, cameras, GPS and algorithms to navigate around the city streets. Some of these features, such as automated parallel parking are already available in certain car models.
“You don’t have to continually monitor what the driver up front is doing, the driver to the side and what’s happening behind,” says Bryan Reimer, a research scientist as MIT’s AgeLab who specializes in driver safety issues. “The more we can provide information and manage the information and allow the driver to focus on what’s important, the more relaxing the drive can be.”
Reimer refers to tests the AgeLab has done with elderly drivers using a parking assist feature, which he calls a “wonderfully developed piece of technology.”
“People get in there, they take their hands off the wheel and they’re scared,” he says. After a few tries, he says, most love the feature, but Reimer says many older drivers may not use such technology without being pushed to do so.