Saturday, March 31, 2007

Honda inches us closer to full auto-pilot cars

I didn't realize how close we all were to getting cars that drive themselves, until I read this a while ago. The car industry is slowly nudging us to that goal with features automatic parallel parking (see Lexus ad) and radar assisted cruise control (which slows down your cruise control if the guy in front of you gets too close).

The latest development takes it one step further by regulating not only your speed, but all keeping you in the white lines. You cannot pass anyone or switch lanes. But just as cruise control keeps you at an even speed, the new technology will keep you in your lane.
We've heard of radar assisted cruise control, that has certain luxury cars running at set speeds on the highway, but slows them down or speeds them up when they get too close to a car in front or behind. Well now Honda UK is taking it to another level with their Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS) that not only regulates your speed, but manages the turning, allowing you a full auto-pilot system for your Accord when you're out on the freeway. The Adaptive Cruise Control is your regular radar variety, but the Lane Keep Assist System keeps you headed in the right direction by using a camera on the rear-view mirror to watch the white lines and turn accordingly.
The only thing that might slow down full autopilot are the fear of lawsuits. Auto-piloted cars may one day prevent most of the 43,000 road fatalities in the US every year. But if the computer malfunctions and just one person is killed, someone will be sued. Are car companies or auto-pilot system programmers ready to take that risk?

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