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Most major vehicle manufacturers have been developing driverless features for as long as 10 years, making small incremental advances. But within the past couple of years, they have made significant strides in the technology. Likely driven by Google’s own driverless program, OEMs like Audi, BMW, and Hyundai are showcasing some of their latest and most cutting-edge prototypes at CES this year, which wraps up today Jan. 9th after four days of tech-filled glory.
The most noteworthy for limo operators could be the Audi A7 that drove completely by itself from San Francisco to Las Vegas. Wired Magazine recently did a test drive, or more suitably a ridealong, of the vehicle, and gave an impressive account of the car’s capabilities.
The protype vehicle has enough on-board computing to fill the entire trunk with computers, but this will all be condensed into one single computer by its production date, which will be merely the size of an iPad. The large computers used in the prototype are useful during the testing phases. Audi says this technology will be in production cars within three to five years.
BMW and Hyundai have also come out with smartwatch integration apps, which can control aspects of the car from far away, such as activating heating and cooling before entering. They also have self-parking abilities, and will even start up and drive to your location if you request it from the watch.
Driverless technology is creeping into mainstream use one feature at a time, through progressive advances in automation. The prototype vehicles are logging mile after mile of autonomous driving without incident, but it will take some time for the consumer mindset to be able to handle with confidence the idea of taking their hands off the wheel and their eyes off the road.
The first self-driving features to come out will likely be for stop-and-go traffic, and then for highway driving, and then slowly point-to-point destinations will be fulfilled without hands-on assistance. The author from Wired who rode in the Autonomous Audi A7 makes a good point on how this type of car technology is advancing, after his own test vehicle successfully preformed a maneuver the engineers hadn’t expected, “autonomous technology is remarkably advanced, yet still in its infancy. It works very well, yes. But we don’t really know exactly how well. And it may, for better or worse, very well surprise us with what it can do.”
— Tim Crowley, LCT senior editor
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