Self-driving cars aren’t just for future robots and lazy, super-rich humans; they could also prove to be a much safer way to travel for everybody. At least that’s what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration man-in-charge David Strickland said today at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit. While delivering his keynote speech, Strickland heralded technology such as autonomous driving and vehicles that are able to communicate with one another, going on to say they could eliminate up to 80 percent of road accidents.
To be fair, autonomous driving technology and inter-vehicle communication isn’t all that new. Google has been dabbling with it for some time now, and announced it was shopping around for interested automotive partners. Luxury German automaker BMW has its ConnectedDrive (see how the words are cleverly connected?), while General Motors has been tinkering around with its EN-V concept for a while now, and just this week unveiled the next generation of its Chevy-branded, self-driving pod car in Beijing.
Of course the applications for cars that can “speak” with one another and even operate without the need for a driver’s input rests far beyond mere superficially: like texting, playing games, or shaving/doing your makeup while on your way to work – although you could very well do all those things in the not-too-distant future. Instead, what automakers are keen to explore are the inherent safety benefits a machine may provide over man. In fact, this was one of the driving factors for GM when we interviewed director of GM’s Electrical and Control Integration Lab, Nady Boules, and the director of GM Advanced Vehicle Concepts, Chris Borroni-Bird last year.
For now, the Detroit Free Press reports that Strickland and the NHTSA are currently working with the auto industry — in addition to other government agencies — to help accelerate the introduction of advanced vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity such as crash warning systems and lane departure alerts with hopes of making our future commutes a lot safer, and maybe even a little more fun.
What do you think? Are your ready to hand your keys over to a machine?