The rise of the ‘robot car’
The fully autonomous Google car has passed the legal hurdles for use on the roads of Nevada and California, and it looks as though the UK could soon follow suit, according to the Guardian.
A team at Oxford University, led by professor Paul Newman, has equipped a Nissan LEAF electric car with lasers and cameras and “stuffed” a computer in the boot. ‘RobotCar UK’ must first be driven manually to construct a sensor map of the road and its surroundings; the next time it can travel that same route in driverless mode.
Proponents such as professor Sebastian Thrun, from Stanford University, argue that driverless cars will dramatically reduce the number of deaths on the roads by using sensors to detect other cars and pedestrians more quickly and reliably than a human driver.
However, the Guardian concludes that it is too early to tell yet whether they will save more lives or cause more collisions, and that we may well not know the answer for some while.
However, professor Newman is optimistic that if developments are taken slowly and incrementally, that ultimately driverless cars will be safer. He is very aware, however, that one serious collision could set the concept back a long way.
One area where autonomous cars could be particularly advantageous is in helping the disabled or elderly achieve greater independence.
Professor Newman says: “I would dearly love my father, for example, to not be worried about dependency on others for transport. Seems to me that just when folk most need freedom of movement we make it too hard for them.”
Click here to read the full Guardian story.
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