The self-driving car was achieved–13 years ago. As part of the National Automated Highway Consortium, a team of engineers and scientists had a platoon of eight cars motor down a stretch Interstate-15 in San Diego, driver free and safe.
So what happened? Computers are faster, cars are safer–but we’re not seeing any self-driving cars, as envisioned in sci-fi from Knight Rider to Minority Report. “It was too expensive,” said Mohan Trivedi, a University of California-San Diego professor who specializes in intelligent cars. The cars required highway lined with sensors and magnets to guide the cars, massively increasing the cost of building roads. So the project died.
But not the dream of better cars. Trivedi chaired the IEEE Intelligent Vehicles Symposium last month, and he said science realized that maybe we don’t want to cede control of our cars. “We have a connection with our vehicles we don’t want to give up,” he said.
Instead, smart car research is focused on how cars can better assist their human drivers. There were some pretty cool concepts on display at the conference: