Driverless cars are often thought of as nothing more than fantasy. However, they could be coming to road near you far sooner than you would imagine thanks to a promising future of driverless cars market in the horizon. Mercedes is currently working on a version of its S-Class which is capable of operating without driver input at speeds of up to 25 mph. The company claims that this will be launched before the end of 2013. The car uses ultrasonic sensors and long-range radar equipment to map the road and identify potential obstacles such as other road users or pedestrians. The key advantage of this will obviously be the ability to cut out frustrating inner-city driving or when you are stuck in a traffic jam.
However, General Motors has taken this one step further. The American company is working on its own technology for autonomous driving which will be able to drop off its occupant and park itself without driver input or guidance. The owner will then be able to request a time and pick up location from the car using a smartphone app. This isn’t far away from becoming reality either, with General Motors planning on making the technology available on its cars to everyday motorists by 2015. Audi is also believed to be working on a similar concept to this.
Mercedes, General Motors and Audi have really slipped under the radar compared to Google’s driverless equipment which has not only grabbed the headlines but also forced a number of states in the USA to change their legislation when it comes to the usage of driverless vehicles.
So far, Google’s modified Toyota Prius has completed over 140,000 miles of testing completely flawlessly. The only incident the car has been involved in was when it was rear-ended by another motorist while stationary at traffic lights. Google is currently predicting that they will be making the equipment available to the public between 2016 and 2018. However, there are a lot of questions still to be answered about the future of autonomous vehicles.
The biggest of these questions revolve around distribution. Will Google sell its technology as an individual add on which can be fitted to any existing vehicle, or will they team up with a well-established car manufacturer such as Ford with an exclusive agreement?
One thing which is for certain is that Google does not seem to be planning to start up their own car brand (not yet anyway). There is no sign of manufacturing facilities and no designs which have been circulated, which would give the company an almighty task if they were going to hit the 2016-2018 deadline.
It is likely that Google would have the greatest chance of financial success with this technology if it decided to go it alone and sell this equipment as an add on to everyday cars. However, it is unclear whether this would be technically possible, and if it is; it is unlikely to come cheap.
Self-driven cars are therefore unlikely to become the mainstream within the next decade, but they are far closer to becoming a reality for early adopters than is generally realized.