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First-Ever Driverless Car Summit Mulls Bringing Autonomous Vehicles to Market

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Google self driving car on 101!

The photographer took this picture on April 3, 2012, in San Mateo, California.

The keynote speaker at Wednesday’s first-ever Driverless Car Summit in Detroit is confident that autonomous cars will save lives. In a 45-minute talk, John Maddox, an associate administrator at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), told those assembled at the MotorCity Casino Hotel that around 33,000 people die annually in the U.S. because of car accidents, and that human error is to blame for 93% of those accidents.

Alisa Priddle quotes Maddox in the Detroit Free Press:

‘That’s an overwhelming number. We now have an opportunity to do something about it. Our goal should be crashless cars,’ he said.

And as Michael Martinez reports in The Detroit News, Maddox said, “Those [crashes] are problems that can’t be left unsolved. Automation can help us solve them.”

According to Priddle’s article:

For that reason, NHTSA is putting significant resources into studying and gathering data on automation, Maddox said at the summit, which was organized by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

‘We need a significant body of research to understand how far it will go to meet our goals,’ Maddox said.

In addition to safety, there are many aspects to consider in order to get to a point where driverless cars can be brought to market, including: cost; finding the right name; improving the reliability of sensors, radar, on-board maps and data collection; plus keeping drivers alert in case they need to quickly take control of the vehicles, Priddle notes.

Infrastructure also needs to be dealt with, such as dedicated lanes or lane markings. Christian Schumacher, director of systems and technology for Continental, said his company’s testing found that the technology that depends on reading lane markings fails when there are no such markings.

According to NHTSA’s Maddox, authorities also need to address policy, liability, and regulatory considerations, and NHTSA needs to test and evaluate the new technology.

Martinez writes that although the Summit called for driverless cars by 2022:

Maddox admitted he doesn’t know if that goal can be reached in 10 years. ‘I don’t have an answer,’ he said, ‘but any answer would be a guess.’

The Summit, which was held on June 12 and 13 for leaders of the robotics and automotive communities, was dedicated to understanding and working to solve “the core challenges impacting driverless vehicle integration onto tomorrow’s roadways,” according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The event featured presentations and interactive discussions as the first steps towards making driverless vehicles a mainstream mode of transportation.

Image by Zack Sheppard, used under its Creative Commons license.

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