The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Driverless Cars Could Be on the Road by 2018

January 08, 2008

DETROIT – Cars that drive themselves — even parking at their destination — could be ready for sale within a decade, according to General Motors Corp. GM, parts suppliers, university engineers, and other automakers all are working on vehicles that could revolutionize short- and long-distance travel.

The most significant obstacles facing the vehicles could be human rather than technical: government regulation, liability laws, privacy concerns, and people’s passion for the automobile and the control it gives them.

Much of the technology already exists for vehicles to take the wheel: radar-based cruise control, motion sensors, lane-change warning devices, electronic stability control, and satellite-based digital mapping. Also automated vehicles could dramatically improve life on the road, reducing crashes, and congestion.

GM plans to use an inexpensive computer chip and an antenna to link vehicles equipped with driverless technologies. The first use likely would be on highways; people would have the option to choose a driverless mode while they still would control the vehicle on local streets.

He said the company plans to test driverless car technology by 2015 and have cars on the road around 2018.

Other challenges include updating vehicle codes and figuring out who would be liable in a crash and how to cope with blown tires or obstacles in the road. But the systems could be developed to tell motorists about road conditions, warn of crashes or stopped vehicles ahead, and prevent collisions in intersections.

Later versions of driverless technology could reduce jams by directing vehicles to space themselves close together, almost as if they were cars in a train, and maximize the use of space on a freeway.

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