Autonomous Autos: “Knight Rider” Is No Longer Fiction

Posted on May 25, 2011 by LCT Magazine

DO WHAT THEY WANT? Thanks to the wonderful technology of today, businesses can automate processes to become more efficient and cut costs, which is particularly vital in the current economic climate. Just a short a while ago, the level of artificial intelligence and interactivity with these options would have been thought of as unrealistic, ideas that are best left for science fiction films. Everything from dispatch to vehicle monitoring to chauffeur check-in to reservations can now be controlled by a computer. But technology only goes so far, right? There are certain things that a computer can never do, like drive a car, right?
Apparently, the folks at Google have been watching too many re-runs of Knight Rider and thought it would be cool to make their own AUTOMATED, SELF-DRIVING CARS. Yep, you read that correctly. Google has been testing out a secret fleet of automated Toyota Priuses (I’m aware that Toyota wants us to call them Prii, but I simply don’t care) and one Audi TT that have logged approximately 140,000 miles thus far by driving themselves up and down California.
The automated cars use roof-mounted video cameras, radar sensors, and a laser range finder to locate everything around them, and combine it with knowledge of Google’s map system to navigate. Since personalized and friendly service is the hallmark of chauffeured transportation, it doesn’t seem likely that these robot cars will replace chauffeurs. Besides, the thought of being driven around in a driver-less car, no matter how intelligent the computer is, creeps me out, and I think clients would lack that comfort-and-safety factor that comes with having a responsible, knowledgeable, and safe driver behind the wheel of their ride. Entire fleets of robotic cars picking people up and driving them around seems ludicrous, like some crazy science fiction. But then again, so do unmanned predator drones and paper-thin, wireless, touchscreen computers.
-- Michael Campos, LCT assistant editor
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