The sci-fi future type stuff we have all been dreaming about is closer than you think and Nissan wants to be a part of it! Cars that drive themselves, a science-fiction story in the 1950s and ’60s, is starting to become reality. Just this week, Nissan announced its big plans to have multiple self-driving vehicles ready for retail sale in seven short years, if and when federal and state regulators agree.
That means by 2020, when baby boomers’ vision starts to blur and reaction times slow to a sometimes-fatal rate, there will be a safe option, other than hiring a driver or staying at home.
According to recent data from the Administration on Aging, by 2030, roughly 72 million people – 19 percent of the U.S. population – will be 65 years or older. With age comes a decrease in driving confidence and capabilities. With current life expectancy pushing all-time highs, the autonomous car actually seems to make sense.
With the ultimate goal of zero auto-related fatalities, Nissan is in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Oxford and other high-ranking universities to research and test autonomous capabilities. There’s even a program in Japan to build a dedicated autonomous driving ground, complete with concrete walls and a true cityscape, which will be used to test the self-driving vehicle in complete safety from public roads. Of course, no matter how safe these things are, there still won’t be any accounting for rogue commuters taking matters into their own hands.
Since the 1980s, when Mercedes-Benz and Bundeswehr University in Munich built the world’s first modern autonomous car, the concept of a driver-free vehicle has inspired just about every major automaker. But only recently has the technology started to work on a major scale.
Florida, Nevada, and California have received federal approval for autonomous-vehicle testing and have been issuing special licenses to automakers, suppliers and tech companies. In April 2012, Cadillac unveiled the Super Cruise, an array of autopilot controls that could be ready as soon as 2015. In January, Lexus introduced a modified, autonomous LS, and Audi received a license to test autonomous vehicles in Nevada, making it the third company to do so since Google was first granted approval in May 2012. In February, BMW and automotive supplier Continental announced they would also bring autonomous cars to production by 2020.
As the majority of fatal accidents are due to human error, driverless cars should certainly serve to curb the odds. They might make driving more fun – boring, stressful commutes could be eliminated – and you’ll be more productive than ever before, actually working on the way to work. We’re not looking forward to that.
by James Tate, www.autos.msn.com
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