Are you ready to take your hands off the wheel?

Toyota showed a number of technologies at NAIAS this month that included Smart Environment Recognition as part of their Future Safety Technology exhibit. The sensors incorporated included cameras, radar and laser radar.

Although the push towards vehicle autonomy is not new, in this last month the level of reporting on the subject seems to have accelerated. Maybe it was the news of the Google Patent on the subject that piqued media interest. In case you missed it, Google has developed a method for transitioning a vehicle between a human driven mode and an autonomously driven mode. The patent references the use of QR codes as reference indictors that return vehicle instructions via a URL avoiding the requirement of a precise and continuous GPS signal.

This month’s Wired magazine has an article entitled Let the Robot Drive, it talks to number of researchers in the field. Not only does he look to the future, but the author also looks back to the genesis of vehicle autonomy with timeline beginning with the 1912 Cadillac self-starter system!

Also in the news is the Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) program. This is a European funded project that has resulted in a demonstration of a Volvo truck leading a “platooned” train of Volvo cars. The video of the Volvo and SARTRE road train project is definitely worth watching.

So what does this mean for the future of vehicle safety? What if a car can’t crash? Does active safety become more important than passive safety in future car design? On the other hand, what does this mean to those of us who actually enjoy driving?!

Tony Norton
Tony Norton

About Tony Norton

Tony leads the Americas based Altair ProductDesign teams in the delivery of early concept (industrial design, design exploration, testing & prototyping) and advanced simulation driven design (cutting-edge modeling, optimization, methods development & automation) to our customers. Before joining Altair UK in 1996, he worked at both Ford Motor Company and GEC-Marconi Avionics. He moved to Michigan in 1999 to join Altair US, and holds a Bachelors degree from The University of Hertfordshire in England.