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Posts Tagged ‘hands-free driving’

Automakers Enter “Gray Zone” as They Roll Out Semi-Autonomous Technologies

Regulators letting makers set the pace on new offerings.

by on Jun.17, 2016

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300 features Auto Lane Change and other semi-autonomous technologies.

As the big Mercedes-Benz sedan roars down U.S. 101 south of San Francisco, it closes on an old pickup truck cruising along in its lane. The driver flicks the turn signal for a pass, but then, unexpectedly, takes his hands off the wheel. The new sedan pauses for two seconds and then completes the maneuver on its own.

While it could be another five years or so until automakers roll out the first fully autonomous vehicles, they’re already beginning to introduce semi-autonomous features like the Auto Lane Change system on the new 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300, as well as Tesla’s new AutoPilot system. Traditionally, the industry has taken a go-slow approach to technology, typically waiting for new government rules and regulations. But in an unusual turnabout, federal regulators are letting the auto industry take the lead.

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That’s pushing carmakers like Mercedes into something of a “gray zone,” said Bart Herring, the general manager of product management for Mercedes-Benz USA. Federal regulators “don’t want to stand in the way and that’s very progressive, something that we as a manufacturer really appreciate.” (more…)

Fake City Aims to Bring Autonomous Vehicles to the Real World

Michigan’s MCity meant to simulate – and repeat – potentially deadly driving situations.

by on Jul.20, 2015

An MCity test meant to prevent car-bicycle collisions.

It’s not quite up to Hollywood standards, and no one would confuse it for downtown Ann Arbor, but nobody’s going to be living in MCity, anyway. And those who’ll be working there won’t really care about the fake store fronts and the streets that run nowhere.

The 32-acre complex that has risen out of a grassy field on the back of the University of Michigan’s North Campus was designed for one reason: to “create an accelerated learning environment” that will help transform autonomous driving from a concept to reality, said Peter Sweatman, the head of the university’s Transportation Research Institute.

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While a number of automakers, as well as tech giant Google, are already testing autonomous vehicles on public roads, MCity will allow them “to take the unusual things that happen on the road and repeat them as often as we want,” helping to ensure that those vehicles will be able to deal with the range of challenges human drivers might face at one point or another.


California Questions Regulating Driverless Cars

Does a driver even need to be in the vehicle?

by on Mar.14, 2014

California-based Google already operates a fleet of prototype autonomous vehicles.

At this month’s Geneva Motor Show, Swiss design firm Rinspeed is showing off an autonomous concept vehicle that would allow the driver and front seat passenger to swivel their seats 180 degrees to commune with those in back, much like a living room on wheels.  Others have begun to imagine the idea of taxis and trucks that can wander the roads without a driver at all.

And that has regulators racing to catch up.  Several states have already passed preliminary rules for manufacturers testing their early prototypes.  And in Nevada and Michigan, that means there still needs to be a licensed driver sitting behind the wheel ready to take control in an instant if there’s a problem.  There’ll be no texting, reading, shaving – or drinking, for that matter.

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But California’s Department of Motor Vehicles is trying to look beyond and ask what happens when autonomous vehicles are actually on the road and in the hands of consumers, whether being operated by a commuter, a taxi driver or a truck fleet operator.  And the questions are taking on an air of increasing urgency considering that Nissan last year said it hopes to quickly take the technology out of the realm of science fiction and make it a reality by 2020.


Buyers Show Increasing Interest in Autonomous Vehicles

Many motorists say they’ll never drive again if autonomous cars become available.

by on Nov.05, 2013

The first autonomous vehicles are expected to go into production by the end of the decade.

Nissan and several other automakers have promised to put the first fully autonomous vehicles into production by the end of the decade, and industry analysts suggest the technology could become increasingly commonplace in the years to follow. That, of course, raises one basic question: will consumers buy vehicles that can drive themselves?

Despite a fair amount of skepticism, the answer appears to be yes.  Interest in autonomous driving is growing, according to a new survey by, which found the one in five drivers were interested in systems that could help pilot a vehicle, many potential buyers saying they would never again take the wheel again if a self-driving, or autonomous, car were available.

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While 20% of the 2,000 licensed drivers surveyed said they would turn over the keys, interest in autonomous vehicles increased when the prospect of reduced insurance rates was introduced into the equation.

“Our survey shows cheaper insurance will greatly influence consumer acceptance,” said managing editor Des Toups.


Era of Accident-Free Driving May be Within Reach

Driver assistance systems a stepping stone to full autonomous vehicles.

by on Oct.10, 2013

Hands off! A Continental autonomous vehicle prototype handles the driving on Detroit's I-75.

Is the auto industry approaching a high-tech era of accident-free driving?

New rules in Europe going into effect in 2014 will require vehicles to have advanced driver assistance features such as lane departure and forward collision warning systems to get a top safety rating – and that’s accelerating the development of new driver-assist technologies that could sharply reduce the number of common accidents due to driver error, industry leaders predict.

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The new rules, in turn, are bringing the age of fully automated driving ever closer, said Steffen Linkenbach, Continental AG director of engineering systems and technology, the German supplier pushing to become a leader in the fast-emerging field.


Driving? Riding? Co-Piloting an Autonomous Vehicle

New vocabulary needed when operating hands-off driving technology.

by on Aug.28, 2013

A prototype Nissan Leaf autonomous vehicle negotiates a simulated urban intersection, complete with cross traffic.

Today’s new cars are routinely loaded with an array of advanced technologies, so it wasn’t a complete surprise to see the small ports cut into the front fenders and rear door panels of the little Nissan Leaf, nor the camera mounted behind the rearview mirror. But there was no way to completely prepare for what happened as the vehicle was shifted from conventional to autonomous mode.

With just a brief warning in synthetic speech, the Leaf suddenly came to life, surging ahead as if possessed, heading out onto a course designed to mimic a typical urban route, complete with stop signs, passing lanes – and oncoming traffic.

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The extra hardware – and the words, “Autonomous Vehicle” on the side of the car – were, in fact, the giveaway that this was a prototype of the self-driving car Nissan this week promised to put into production by 2020. It is so confident of the role that autonomous vehicles will play in the future that the Japanese automaker’s global product development chief said the technology will quickly roll out across the Nissan line-up.


Audi Honored as “Disruptive” Company

MIT singles out German maker's “Piloted Driving” system.

by on Feb.20, 2013

Audi's Piloted Driving system was singled out by MIT as a particularly promising technology.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology publication “Technology Review” is sending kudos to Audi by naming the German maker as one of its “50 Most Disruptive Companies” for Audi’s ongoing hands-off driving project.

Audi unveiled the so-called “Piloted Driving” system at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year and the system basically is an extension of the company’s adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist features.

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Audi noted at the time the “Piloted Driving” car, an A6 wagon, was designed to aid drivers caught in heavy traffic and could be ready for sale within a decade. The traffic-jam assist system previewed at CES does not feature fully autonomous driving. Audi leaves the driver in charge of the vehicle since the system only works in sub-40-mph situations on highways.


Hands-off, We Take a Drive GM’s Autonomous “Super Cruise”

by on Mar.29, 2012

Slip into your EN-VI pod and plug in a destination before turning the driving duties over to your vehicle? That's one increasingly real vision of the future.

It sounds easy enough. Pilot a sport-utility vehicle around a banked test track at General Motors Milford Proving Ground. But there is a catch and it’s a big one: while you’re sitting behind the wheel you’ll also be sitting on your hands, letting a complex network of cameras, radar sensors and computers handle the actual job of driving at speeds approaching 70 miles per hour.

Unnerving, most definitely, but the system, dubbed Super Cruise” by GM engineers and researchers, offers a glimpse into the future of motoring. Once you get the SUV is up and moving, the system works flawlessly. The computer keeps the vehicle perfect centered in the lane even when the SUV is moving at good clip.

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The advanced version of the adaptive cruise control modulates the speeds to keep pace with the rest of the – manually operated — traffic on the test traffic. It slows when the researchers simulate a back-up around a freeway off ramp and speeds up as the traffic eases. We’re quickly back up to freeway speed.