California Governor Jerry Brown rode in a self-driving car with Google co-founder Sergey Brin on their way to Google headquarters, where Brown signed legislation creating a framework for introducing driverless cars into California by 2015. Meanwhile, automakers are incrementally automating driving with the introduction of a variety of new technologies.
On October 23, Volvo and the Embassy of Sweden are co-sponsoring a Washington, DC seminar to discuss the policy implications of autonomous vehicles. The seminar will include speakers from Volvo, Google, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Center for Automotive Research. The Antiplanner can’t make it, but readers in the Washington DC area may want to reserve a spot.
Volvo’s contribution to the technology focuses on road trains, in which a lead vehicle is driven by a professional and other vehicles can follow without active drivers. The system has been tested in Spain with just 20-foot gaps between vehicles. Volvo hopes the system will also improve fuel economy by about 20 percent.
Meanwhile, the latest Honda Accord comes with a “lane watch” system that allows people to see potential blind spots in a rear-view camera when they are changing lanes. Among other things, this could help prevent accidents that take place when cars turn right into the path of a cyclist riding on the right side of the road.
Not to be outdone, Ford has introduced its 2013 Fusion, whose SE model may be the lowest-priced car on the market available with lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, collision avoidance, a blind-spot information system, and parking assist. A Fusion with all these driver-assist technologies is under $30,000; the sensors required for these features make up most of the package that is required for a fully driverless car. Some predict the Fusion will outsell the Camry, currently the best-selling car in America, and if it does it will partly be because Americans actually want cars that help them drive.