What was once torn from the pages of science fiction a decade ago is now inching closer to becoming a reality. It looks like cars may very well be driving themselves in public soon enough. In fact, we may even see driverless cars populating our roads within the next ten years.
People hoping to start auto careers may even begin to see exciting changes in their training, as driverless vehicles change the landscape for automotive service technicians and auto sales college graduates.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the possible ways our roads could soon become driver-free:
Google’s Close, Real Close
Driverless cars already exist – and Google is testing their own version in California. So far, these tests have only been on a closed track, but the tech and potential future automotive giant is happy with the results.
Google has now ordered 150 prototypes of the driverless vehicle from Roush Enterprises Inc. in Detroit, and hope to have them driving people down the city streets of Northern California by the end of the year – although these drivers will still be Google employees. According to a California law passed in 2012, these cars will be required to have a steering wheel and pedals just in case something goes wrong. Other states have laws permitting driverless cars without such requirements.
These hand-free cars use sensors to detect fellow vehicles, road signs and other pertinent navigational information, which is then fed to software which analyses the data and makes driving choices accordingly. Google did a test with locals who weren’t a part of the engineering team, which you can watch here:
Bosch’s 10-Year Plan
German automotive supplier Robert Bosch GmbH has been working on a system of cameras, radar and other technology to facilitate driverless cars navigating the Autobahn (German highway). Their projected rollout is a bit longer than Google’s. At a recent press conference, managing board member Wolf-Henning Scheider outlined a step-by-step process for the next decade:
- Step 1 – By 2017: The company calls this phase integrated highway assist. It involves the car travelling up to 75 mph on its own in one lane while the driver still has to pay attention to the road.
- Step 2 – By 2018: Using Highway Assist, the car can travel at high speeds and change lanes. However, such actions still require the driver’s approval.
- Step 3 – By 2020: In this stage, the car goes on auto-pilot for the most part. It can navigate the highway on its own, but the driver needs to be able to take over quickly if needed. If the driver cannot, the car will pull over.
- Step 4 – By 2025: By this time, cars will be fully automated with no need for a driver. Everyone in the car can sit back, relax, chat, text, watch a movie, you name it, while the car gets them from Point A to Point B using the highway.
Other Driverless Cars in the Works
Several auto makers have announced plans for driverless vehicles of their own. These include:
- Tesla Motors has plans for autopilot by 2016.
- Nissan says it will be offering fully-automated vehicles by 2020.
- Audi’s A8 limousine will be able to drive itself by 2017 according to the company.
- Daimler thinks cars without the need of a driver or steering wheel could be available by 2025.
How do you think driverless cars will change the duties of auto mechanics?