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Car manufacturers race to show off driverless technology

By raccars Published

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Much of the motoring world’s attention has been focused on Mountain View, California, as Google has been showing off its new driverless car. It is an impressive step forward in the quest to produce a genuinely useful and safe autonomous car but it is by no means the only example. Major car manufacturers are determined not to be overtaken by the technology giant and they themselves are busy testing their own autonomous technologies.

There are many different approaches being taken, from completely driverless cars to driver assistance technology. The Google vehicle is a totally autonomous car, with no manual control whatsoever. Inside there are simply two seats and buttons to start the car and stop it. There is no sign of any steering wheel or control pedals.

Some of the car manufacturers’ prototypes are less radical and many embed the technology in a more standard model. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is traditionally the event where computer companies launch their gadgets, but more lately car-makers have been taking a larger presence. In January 2014, for example, Audi showed off their Quattro Sport Laserlight concept car. The car may look fairly standard but under the bonnet is the German firm’s zFAS autonomous car brain. This system includes a laser scanner, video cameras and a radar. It also uses information from the car’s GPS navigation system and ultra-sonic scanning at the sides and front of the car, to guide the vehicle.

Car technology firm, Valeo, also exhibited at the show. The firm demonstrated their self-parking technology in a Range Rover. The system has 12 ultrasonic sensors, four cameras and a laser and the car can be parked by simply swiping an app on a smartphone. Lexus and parent company, Toyota, attended the 2013 CES conference and showed off their own approach to autonomous technology in their cars. This approach is slightly different and is positioned as a safety aid for the driver, rather than a replacement. The car uses a 360 degree laser to locate obstacles up to 70 metres away and can then take avoiding action, even if the driver fails to react to the object.

BMW joined the fun at the CES show in 2014 and showed off a `self-assisting' version of their i3 electric car. They also showed off a self-driving car that could 'drift', demonstrating that autonomous cars could be fun. Ford and Nissan have also demonstrated related technology and Volvo has received permission to test autonomous cars on British roads. It seems that the industry really is serious about this new driverless paradigm.

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