Autonomous Car Information
An autonomous car, also known as a robotic car, or informally as driverless or self-driving, is an autonomous vehicle capable of fulfilling the human transportation capabilities of a traditional car. As an autonomous vehicle, it is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. Robotic cars exist mainly as prototypes, but are likely to become more widespread in the near future.
Autonomous vehicles sense their surroundings with such techniques as radar, lidar, GPS, and computer vision. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage. Some autonomous vehicles update their maps based on sensory input, allowing them to find their way through uncharted environments.
Since the late 2000s, significant advances have been made in both technology and legislation relevant to autonomous cars. Numerous major companies and research organizations have developed working prototype autonomous vehicles, including Google, Continental Automotive Systems, Bosch, Nissan, Toyota, Audi, and Oxford University. In June 2011, the state of Nevada was the first jurisdiction in the United States to pass a law concerning the operation of autonomous cars. The Nevada law went into effect on March 1, 2012, and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles issued the first license for a self-driving car in May 2012. As of February 2013, three U.S. states have passed laws permitting driverless cars: Nevada, Florida and California.
Anticipated benefits of automous cars include:
- Fewer traffic collisions, due to an autonomous system's increased reliability and decreased reaction time compared to human drivers.
- Increased roadway capacity and reduced traffic congestion due to reduced need for safety gaps and the ability to better manage traffic flow.
- Relief of vehicle occupants from driving and navigation chores.
- Higher speed limit for autonomous cars 
- Removal of constraints on occupants' state – in an autonomous car, it would not matter if the occupants were under age, over age, blind, distracted, intoxicated, or otherwise impaired.
- Alleviation of parking scarcity as cars could drop off passengers, park far away where space is not scarce, and return as needed to pick up passengers.
- Elimination of redundant passengers – humans are not required to take the car anywhere, as the robotic car can drive independently to wherever it is required. This would be especially relevant to trucks, taxis and car-sharing services.
- Reduction of space required for vehicle parking.
- Reduction in the need for traffic police and vehicle insurance.
- Reduction of physical road signage – autonomous cars could receive necessary communication electronically (although physical signs may still be required for any human drivers).
- Improved fuel efficiency.
An early representation of the autonomous car was Norman Bel Geddes's Futurama exhibit sponsored by General Motors at the 1939 World's Fair, which depicted electric cars powered by circuits embedded in the roadway and controlled by radio.
In the 1980s, a vision-guided Mercedes-Benz robotic van, designed by Ernst Dickmanns and his team at the Bundeswehr University Munich in Munich, Germany, achieved 39 miles per hour (63 km/h) on streets without traffic. Subsequently, the European Commission began funding the €800 million EC EUREKA Prometheus Project on autonomous vehicles from 1987 to 1995.
Also in the 1980s, the DARPA-funded Autonomous Land Vehicle (ALV) in the United States achieved the first road-following demonstration that used laser radar (Environmental Research Institute of Michigan), computer vision (Carnegie Mellon University and SRI), and autonomous robotic control (Carnegie Mellon and Martin Marietta) to control a robotic vehicle up to 19 miles per hour (31 km/h). In 1987, HRL Laboratories (formerly Hughes Research Labs) demonstrated the first off-road map and sensor-based autonomous navigation on the ALV. The vehicle traveled over 2,000 feet (610 m) at 1.9 miles per hour (3.1 km/h) on complex terrain with steep slopes, ravines, large rocks, and vegetation.
In 1991, the United States Congress passed the ISTEA Transportation Authorization bill, which instructed USDOT to "demonstrate an automated vehicle and highway system by 1997." The Federal Highway Administration took on this task, first with a series of Precursor Systems Analsyes and then by establishing the National Automated Highway System Consortium (NAHSC). This cost-shared project was led by FHWA and General Motors, with Caltrans, Delco, Parsons Brinkerhoff, Bechtel, UC-Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, and Lockheed Martin as additional partners. Extensive systems engineering work and research culminated in Demo '97 on I-15 in San Diego, California, in which about 20 automated vehicles, including cars, buses, and trucks, were demonstrated to thousands of onlookers, attracting extensive media coverage. The demonstrations involved close-headway platooning intended to operate in segregated traffic, as well as "free agent" vehicles intended to operate in mixed traffic. Other carmakers were invited to demonstrate their systems, such that Toyota and Honda also participated. While the subsequent aim was to produce a system design to aid commercialization, the program was cancelled in the late 1990s due to tightening research budgets at USDOT. Overall funding for the program was in the range of $90 million.
In 1994, the twin robot vehicles VaMP and Vita-2 of Daimler-Benz and Ernst Dickmanns of UniBwM drove more than 620 miles (1,000 km) on a Paris three-lane highway in standard heavy traffic at speeds up to 81 miles per hour (130 km/h), albeit semi-autonomously with human interventions. They demonstrated autonomous driving in free lanes, convoy driving, and lane changes with autonomous passing of other cars. That same year, Lucas Industries developed parts for a semi-autonomous car in a project that was funded by Jaguar Cars, Lucas, and the UK Department of Trade and Industry.
In 1995, Dickmanns' re-engineered autonomous S-Class Mercedes-Benz undertook a 990 miles (1,590 km) journey from Munich in Bavaria, Germany to Copenhagen, Denmark and back, using saccadic computer vision and transputers to react in real time. The robot achieved speeds exceeding 109 miles per hour (175 km/h) on the German Autobahn, with a mean time between human interventions of 5.6 miles (9.0 km), or 95% autonomous driving. It drove in traffic, executing manoeuvres to pass other cars. Despite being a research system without emphasis on long distance reliability, it drove up to 98 miles (158 km) without human intervention.
In 1995, the Carnegie Mellon University Navlab project achieved 98.2% autonomous driving on a 3,100 miles (5,000 km) cross-country journey which was dubbed "No Hands Across America". This car, however, was semi-autonomous by nature: it used neural networks to control the steering wheel, but throttle and brakes were human-controlled.
In 1996, Alberto Broggi of the University of Parma launched the ARGO Project, which worked on enabling a modified Lancia Thema to follow the normal (painted) lane marks in an unmodified highway. The culmination of the project was a journey of 1,200 miles (1,900 km) over six days on the motorways of northern Italy dubbed Mille Miglia in Automatico ("One thousand automatic miles"), with an average speed of 56 miles per hour (90 km/h). The car operated in fully automatic mode for 94% of its journey, with the longest automatic stretch being 34 miles (55 km). The vehicle had only two black-and-white low-cost video cameras on board and used stereoscopic vision algorithms to understand its environment.
The US Government funded three military efforts known as Demo I (US Army), Demo II (DARPA), and Demo III (US Army). Demo III (2001) demonstrated the ability of unmanned ground vehicles to navigate miles of difficult off-road terrain, avoiding obstacles such as rocks and trees. James Albus at the National Institute for Standards and Technology provided the Real-Time Control System which is a hierarchical control system. Not only were individual vehicles controlled (e.g. throttle, steering, and brake), but groups of vehicles had their movements automatically coordinated in response to high level goals.
The ParkShuttle, a driverless public road transport system, was became operational in the early 2000s. In January 2006, the United Kingdom's 'Foresight' think-tank revealed a report which predicts RFID-tagged driverless cars on UK's roads by 2056 and the Royal Academy of Engineering claimed that driverless trucks could be on Britain's motorways by 2019.
Autonomous vehicles have also been used in mining. Since December 2008, Rio Tinto Alcan has been testing the Komatsu Autonomous Haulage System - the world's first commercial autonomous mining haulage system - in the Pilbara iron ores mine, in Western Australia. Rio Tinto has reported benefits in health, safety, and productivity. In November 2011, Rio Tinto signed a deal to greatly expand its fleet of driverless trucks. Additional mining systems include Sandvik Automine (for underground loaders) and autonomous hauling from Caterpillar Inc.
In 2010, VisLab ran the VisLab Intercontinental Autonomous Challenge (VIAC), a 9,900 miles (15,900 km) test run of autonomous vehicles. Four driverless electric vans successfully completed the 100 day drive from Italy to China, leaving Parma, Italy on July 20, 2010 and arriving at the Shanghai Expo on October 28, having completed the first intercontinental journey with autonomous vehicles.
- BMW has been testing driverless systems since around 2005.
- In 2011, GM created the EN-V (short for Electric Networked Vehicle), an autonomous electric urban vehicle.
- In 2010, Audi sent a driverless Audi TTS to the top of Pike’s Peak at close to race speeds.
- Volkswagen is currently testing a "Temporary Auto Pilot" (TAP) system that will allow a car to drive itself at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour (130 km/h) on the highway.
- Ford is researching driverless systems and vehicular communication systems.
- In January 2013, Toyota demonstrated a partially self-driving car with numerous sensors and communication systems.
- Other programs in the field include the 2GetThere passenger vehicles from the Netherlands and the DARPA Grand Challenge in the USA.
- Some plans for bimodal public transport systems include autonomous cars as a component.
- In May 2013 the autonomous cars used by the London Heathrow PRT system completed their 1,000,000th mile of driver less operation.
Although as of 2013, fully autonomous vehicles are not yet available to the public, many models have features offering narrower functionality. These include adaptive cruise control (a system that monitors distances to adjacent vehicles in the same lane, adjusting the speed with the flow of traffic), available on over 30 models by various manufacturers; lane assist (a system that monitors the vehicle's position in the lane, and either warns the driver when the vehicle is leaving its lane, or, less commonly, takes corrective actions); and parking assist (a system that assists the driver in the task of parallel parking.)
- In 2013, the 2014 Mercedes S-Class will have the option of autonomous steering, braking, acceleration, parking, lane guidance, accident avoidance, and driver fatigue detection, in both city traffic and highway speeds of up to 124 miles (200 km) per hour.
- In 2013, the 2014 BMW i3 will autonomously steer, accelerate and brake in traffic jams at up to 25 miles (40 km) per hour.
- By 2014, Volvo expects vehicles that can be autonomous at up to 31 miles (50 km) per hour, with expected use in heavy traffic.
- By 2015, Audi plans vehicles that can autonomously steer, accelerate and brake at lower speeds, such as in traffic jams.
- By 2015, Cadillac plans vehicles with "super cruise": autonomous steering, braking and lane guidance.
- By 2015, Nissan expects vehicles with autonomous steering, braking, lane guidance, throttle, gear shifting, and, as permitted by law, unoccupied self-parking after passengers exit.
- By 2018, Google expects to release its autonomous car technology.
- By 2020, Volvo expects accident-free cars, and "road trains" in which individual cars are guided by a driver in a lead vehicle.
- By 2020, GM, Audi, Nissan and BMW all expect driverless cars.
In the United States, state vehicle codes generally do not envisage – but do not necessarily prohibit – highly automated vehicles. To clarify the legal status of and otherwise regulate such vehicles, several states have enacted or are considering specific laws. As of the end of 2012, three U.S. states, (Nevada, Florida, and California) have successfully enacted laws addressing autonomous vehicles.
In June 2011, the Nevada Legislature passed a law to authorize the use of autonomous cars. Nevada thus became the first jurisdiction in the world where autonomous vehicles might be legally operated on public roads. The bill was signed into law by Nevada's Governor on June 16, 2011. According to the law, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (NDMV) is responsible for setting safety and performance standards and the agency is responsible for designating areas where autonomous cars may be tested. The law went into effect on March 1, 2012. This legislation was supported by Google in an effort to legally conduct further testing of its Google driverless car.A Toyota Prius modified by Google to operate as a driverless car.
The Nevada law defines an autonomous vehicle to be "a motor vehicle that uses artificial intelligence, sensors and global positioning system coordinates to drive itself without the active intervention of a human operator." The law also acknowledges that the operator will not need to pay attention while the car is operating itself. Google had further lobbied for an exemption from a ban on distracted driving to permit occupants to send text messages while sitting behind the wheel, but this did not become law. Furthermore, Nevada's regulations require a person behind the wheel and one in the passenger’s seat during tests.
In May 2012, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued the first license for a self-driven car to a Toyota Prius modified with Google's experimental driverless technology. Google's autonomous system permits a human driver to take control of the vehicle at any time by stepping on the brake or turning the wheel. License plates issued in Nevada for autonomous cars will have a red background and feature an infinity symbol (∞) on the left side, which according to the DMV Director "was the best way to represent the 'car of the future'."
On July 1, 2012, Florida became the second state to recognize the legality of autonomous vehicles. Florida's law clarifies that, "the State does not prohibit or specifically regulate the testing or operation of autonomous … vehicles on public roads."
On September 25, 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill allowing the legalization of driverless cars in the state of California which also requires the California Department of Motor Vehicles to draft regulations by 2015. In California, proposed legislation would require that "the driver would still need to sit behind the wheel in case the robotic functions of the car suddenly fail and a real driver is needed", thus limiting the benefits that autonomous cars could provide to unlicensed drivers.
In the 2013–2014 legislative session, Colorado and Michigan introduced legislation addressing the regulation of autonomous vehicles. Michigan's proposed bill is currently in the State Senate Transportation Committee. Colorado's proposed bill was rejected in committee in February 2013.
Vehicular communication systemsMain article: Vehicular communication systems
Individual vehicles may benefit from information obtained from other vehicles in the vicinity, especially information relating to traffic congestion and safety hazards. Vehicular communication systems use vehicles and roadside units as the communicating nodes in a peer-to-peer network, providing each other with information. As a cooperative approach, vehicular communication systems can allow all cooperating vehicles to be more effective. According to a 2010 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicular communication systems could help avoid up to 81 percent of all traffic accidents.
In 2012, computer scientists at the University of Texas in Austin began developing smart intersections designed for autonomous cars. The intersections will have no traffic lights and no stop signs, instead using computer programs that will communicate directly with each car on the road.
Public opinion surveys
According to a survey of 17,400 vehicle owners conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, 37 percent of all survey responders initially said they would be interested in purchasing a fully autonomous car. However, that figure dropped to 20 percent once they learned the technology would cost an additional $3,000. With an additional cost of $3,000, 25% of the male vehicle buyers were willing to pay for a fully autonomous vehicle, while only 14 percent of women wanted the feature. According to a 2011 online survey of 2,006 consumers in the US and the UK conducted by Accenture, 49 percent of all survey responders said they would be comfortable using a "driverless car".
Vehicles for roads
- The Google driverless car project maintains a test fleet of autonomous vehicles that has driven 300,000 miles (480,000 km) with almost no accidents as of August 2012.
- The €800 million EC EUREKA Prometheus Project on autonomous vehicles from 1987 to 1995. Among its culmination points were the twin robot vehicles VITA-2 and VaMP of Daimler-Benz and Ernst Dickmanns, driving long distances in heavy traffic (see History above).
- The $90 million Automated Highway System program demonstrated vehicle automation to thousands at Demo '97 in San Diego, California. (see History above)
- The VIAC Challenge, in which 4 vehicles drove from Italy to China on a 100 day 9,900 miles (15,900 km) trip with only limited occasions requiring human intervention, such as in Moscow traffic jams and when passing toll stations. This is the longest-ever trip by an unmanned vehicle.
- Carnegie Mellon University has developed cars for competition in DARPA Challenge competitions. The third competition of the DARPA Grand Challenge was held in November 2007. 53 teams qualified initially, but after a series of qualifying rounds, only eleven teams entered the final race. Of these, six teams completed navigating through the non-populated urban environment and the Carnegie Mellon University team, with a vehicle named BOSS, won the $2 million prize.
- The ARGO vehicle (see History above) is the predecessor of the BRAiVE vehicle, both from the University of Parma's VisLab. Argo was developed in 1996 and demonstrated to the world in 1998; BRAiVE was developed in 2008 and demonstrated in 2009 at the IEEE IV conference in Xi'an, China.
- Stanford Racing Team has developed cars for competition in DARPA Challenge competitions. Junior was an autonomous driverless car for paved roads intended for civilian use; it qualified for the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge race. Junior was preceded by Stanley, which competed in and won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge.
- In 2012, Stanford's Dynamic Design Lab, in collaboration with the Volkswagen Electronics Research Lab, produced Shelley, an Audi TTS designed for high speed (greater than 100 miles per hour (160 km/h)) on a racetrack course.
- Oxford University's 2011 WildCat Project created a heavily modified Bowler Wildcat which was capable of entirely fly-by-wire operation, using a flexible and diverse sensor suite.
- Team CIMAR's NaviGator is one such vehicle developed at the University of Florida which is capable of driving on its own and will feature new features which can be adopted to make conventional navigation better.
- The Volkswagen Golf GTI 53+1 is a modified Volkswagen Golf GTI capable of autonomous driving. The Golf GTI 53+1 features an implemented system that can be integrated into any car. This system is based around the MicroAutoBox from dSpace. In his 2010 book, Democracy and the Common Wealth, Michael E. Arth claims that autonomous cars could become universally adopted if almost all private cars requiring drivers, which are not in use and parked 90% of the time, were traded for public self-driving taxis, which would be in near-constant use.
- The Audi TTS Pikes Peak is a modified Audi TTS which navigates solely using GPS. The car was designed by Burkhard Huhnke of Volkswagen Research.
- Stadtpilot – part of the Technical University Braunschweig
- AutoNOMOS – part of the Artificial Intelligence Group of the Freie Universität Berlin
- Toyota has developed prototype cars with onboard radar and self-driving capabilities for demonstration at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show.
- In February 2013, Oxford University unveiled the RobotCar UK project, an inexpensive autonomous car capable of quickly switching from manual drive to autopilot on familiar routes.
There are four main clusters of activity related to free-ranging off-road autonomous cars, most of which are military-oriented.
- In 2002, the US Department of Defense announced the DARPA Grand Challenge, a competition for US-based teams to produce a vehicle that could autonomously navigate and reach a target in the desert of the southwestern USA. The first competition was held in March 2004, for a prize of US$1 million. Not one of the 25 entrants completed the course. In the second competition, held in October 2005, five different teams completed the 135 miles (217 km) course, and the Stanford University team won the $2 million prize. The third competition was held in November 2007, with six driverless vehicles completing a 55 miles (89 km) course for a $2 million dollar prize. Carnegie Mellon University's system, Boss, took first prize with a time of 4 hours, 10 minutes, and 20 seconds, beating the next-best competitor by 19 minutes and 8 seconds.
- In May 2006, the German Department of Defense held an exhibition trade show, the European Land-Robot Trial (ELROB), for the demonstration of autonomous vehicles. The event included various military autonomous and teleoperated robots, for various military uses. In August 2007, a civilian version of the event was held in Switzerland.
- Israel has significant research efforts to develop a fully autonomous border-patrol vehicle. This originated with its success with Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles, and following the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier. Two projects, by Elbit Systems and Israel Aircraft Industries are both based on the locally produced Armored "Tomcar" and have the specific purpose of patrolling barrier fences against intrusions.
- In November 2010, Hyundai Kia Automotive Group first organized the Korean Autonomous Vehicle Competition (AVC), with a top prize of $100,000. The Hanyang University A1 team won the 2010 prize.
- The 1983 film Christine features a sentient, autonomous car as the title character.
- KITT, the autonomous Pontiac Trans Am in the TV series Knight Rider, was sentient and autonomous.
- In the 1989 film Batman, starring Michael Keaton, the Batmobile is shown to be able to drive itself to Batman's current location.
- The 1990 film Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, features taxis apparently controlled by artificial intelligence; it is not clear, however, whether these are truly autonomous vehicles or simply conventional vehicles driven by androids.
- The 1993 film Demolition Man, starring Sylvester Stallone, set in 2032, features vehicles that can be self-driven or commanded to "Auto Mode" where a voice controlled computer operates the vehicle.
- The 1994 film Timecop, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, set in 2004 and 1994, has cars that can either be self-driven or commanded to drive to specific locations such as "home".
- Another Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, The 6th Day from 2000, features an autonomous car commanded by Michael Rapaport.
- The 2002 film Minority Report, set in Washington, D.C. in 2054, features an extended chase sequence involving autonomous cars. The vehicle of protagonist John Anderton is transporting him when its systems are overridden by police in an attempt to bring him into custody.
- The 2004 film I, Robot features autonomous vehicles driving on highways, allowing the car to travel safer at higher speeds than if manually controlled. However, the option to manually operate the vehicle is available.
- Intelligent or self-driving cars are a common theme in science fiction novels, including Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga and Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space series.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Autonomous car|
- The Race for the First Driverless Car, March 2013.
- Driverless Cars Now Legal in Nevada, June 2011.
- Sebastian Thrun speaks about autonomous cars on Executive Talks, May 2007.