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Friday, June 21, 2013

Driverless Cars are Coming to A Dealer Near You

Driverless cars are being advertised as safety nets and not as an excuse to watch a movie on your next trip to Houston. I know that I will  never own one, but I’m sure someone in my family will eventually own one, and I’ll be more than happy to listen to their experience. The driverless cars have systems that can be overridden but why pay all the extra money if you are going to do that.

The 2014 Acura RLX is supposed to rescue careless drivers with a feature called the “lane keeping aid.” If a driver falls asleep and the car starts to drift, warnings will sound and if the driver doesn’t respond, a camera will scan the areas around the car, pick out the lane markings and guide the vehicle back to the center lane. You can own this package for a nominal price of $61,000.

No doubt driverless cars are in our future to help us park in tight areas, steer for us and even brake for us faster than our own human sensors might tell us to, which might be a good thing in Victoria since we have more than our share of people who run into buildings. I do like the idea that Volvo might install a cyclist detection on their 2014 models. I need all the help I can get from cars who refuse to give me a three-foot  separation.

On the high end, GM plans to install a Super Cruise on their Cadillacs (2020) which will allow drivers to take hands off the wheel in certain driving conditions. The 2014 Mercedes –Benz ($90,000) will have stereo cameras in 3D, so the suspension can adjust for irregularities of the road.

The new millionaires in Cuero can crank up their RLX, turn on their adaptive cruise control, which can bring the car to a full stop and start again( the vehicle can manage its own gassing in braking) and  just sit back and relax on their way to Victoria. 

It's been estimated that 6% of the new cars in North America will have some form of lane assistance, and that figure will jump to 40% in the next decade. The prices of these newly equipped cars will eventually fall as the government will make all these  innovations mandatory. I can also see auto insurance rates coming down with related discounts, as they do in Europe.

I’ve given all the positives, but I can remember Toyota recalling all those cars where the gas pedals stuck (software error) leaving the driver without a way to turn off their car going 100mph. I know my GPS has been wrong on occasion. I wonder if the systems can detect blind spots, new construction, faded or marked out lane markings?  Then there is driver awareness like the driver who allowed the system to brake the car but the car remained motionless at a green light because the driver forgot to re-engage the cruise control.

The article I read in Time magazine never mentioned passing, all it said was that the driverless cars would steer themselves into the fast lane and remain at the proper interval. I can imagine on a trip to Houston  encountering a few farmer Browns driving 45 MPH in the fast lane, and I’m probably one of the few who drives 65MPH from Beasley on to Houston.

Back in my money making days,I would have gone to dealership for a test drive and left with a brochure promising to come back but knowing I was going to shop around for the best deal.  I would have convinced myself and in time my wife (maybe) that this driverless car  would be ideal for our next vacation. I'm glad those car haggling days are over.

I can see where those cars would appeal to those who are always on the road  but I'm content with the Prius for those few out of town trips. 


born2Bme said...

I see that nothing but trouble will come out of this. Driving conditions are just too unpredictable, computers aren't always trustworthy, and other variables too wide. If I'm not scared too get out on the road now, I will be when that all happens.
I keep picturing my wreck in my mind and how that kind of technology would have helped, but I cannot see where it would have helped.
You take people that will be content to take their alert minds and reactions out of the equation, and rely solely on their new automobiles, and it's scary.

Edith Ann said...

I don't mind the warnings when you creep over to the shoulder or to the opposing lane, but that's it! I'm already out with folks who are not paying attention, this would be dreadful! I'm with Born on this--a disaster waiting to happen!

Mike said...

Yes born that's a point I forgot to mention...The article stated that that these systems might erode the driving skills we have acquired throughout the years.Yes,new technology can fail but so can the old systems.

My Toyota Prius came equipped with a "Vehicle Stability Control system,"which I completely forgotten until I hit a icy patch on I35 into Austin. My steering column locked and I had no control for a brief moment until the car recovered. The system prevented me from applying the brake or steering the car until it straighten out electronically...That's one time out of six years.

I agree the warning system is a plus but the cars are coming loaded with even more distractions. We've seen the commercials with the plush seats and that's great for some but I've been known to fall asleep in my plush recliner...:-)

Overall I'm glad engineers are working to make our driving experiences safer without human input but I hope they work out most the kinks within 10 years.That's when its been predicted that 40% of the cars will be equipped for less driver control.