November 18 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Gadgets Year: 2019 Rating: 6 Hot
Dr. Sebastian Thrun, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University where he directs the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, went over the steps his team has made in developing a self-driving vehicle at RoboDev in Santa Clara today. He showed some incredible video of cars smashing into obstacles (sometimes even seeking other cars out to smash into) but ended with videos of their latest vehicle successfully navigating slowly around other moving cars.
The great thing about his presentation was his appeal not to the side that wants self-driving cars, but to a side we can all agree with — saving energy, lives, and time.
In saving energy, Dr. Thrun explained that 22% of the Nation’s energy consumption is used by cars. You also only use your car on average during about 10% of your day, making it useless the other 90%. If self-driving cars could be developed, one car could be used by multiple people. “You could be dropped off at work and then send the car back home to pick up your wife.” Added safety will also increase gas mileage since removing the extra weight of safety features (airbag, reinforced steel) would increase fuel efficiency by 30%. (It should also be noted that convoys reduce energy consumption by 11%-17%)
In making cars automated, we could potentially save millions of lives. In the US alone, 42,000 people die in car accidents every year while 2.7 million are injured. Cars are, in fact, the leading cause of death of people between the ages of 3 to 33. In order to protect people from these accidents, we decrease fuel efficiency by piling safety features onto our cars (see above). Dr Thrun said “it blows my mind that the only response is to build bigger vehicles, the SUV.” Automated cars could save the lives of over a million worldwide each year.
The last point Dr. Thrun made was how much automated cars could save us time. Highway congestion, growing at a 3% increase each year, would be much smoother due to lack of accidents and better traffic control (constant speeds, lack of stop and go or people cutting across lanes of traffic). The average person in the US spends an average of 1.25 hours a day in a car. With automated driving this time could be spent checking email, making phone calls, even writing. Elderly and the blind could be driven anywhere they needed without having to worry about their own driving skills. (And imagine being dropped off in front of a restaurant and having the car go park itself).
Overall, Dr. Thrun has turned me into a self-driving car fanatic, and according to him we can expect to see them within the next ten years (see vid below).