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February 11, 2008

Look Ma, No Hands!

Posted: 11:05 AM ET

Actually, no driver! While on assignment at the Consumer Electronics Show last month, I went for a spin in the GM robot car, the winner of last year's Urban Challenge competition in which vehicles autonomously navigate 60 miles of a mock urban environment.

Carnegie Mellon University's vehicle "Boss" won that competition and the $2 million prize. General Motors helped build "Boss" and they believe that an autonomous vehicle is the future of automobile. GM says it could take up to 10 years to get some of these technologies fully integrated in every day cars. Lexus already has a car that parallel parks itself and other vehicles have lane departure warning systems and cruise controls that adjust your relative speed. So an autonomous vehicle may not be a far fetched idea after all.

What do you think of a car that drives by itself? It would sure be easier to eat, shave and put on make-up while our cars drive us to work, right?

-Paulo Nogueira, Producer, CNN Sci-Tech 

Check out this videoas Dr. Chris Urmson from Carnegie Mellon University demonstrates how "Boss" navigates through a demonstration track.

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Adam Sanborne   February 11th, 2008 4:59 pm ET

Sounds like Total Recall! I think this is an idea that could make roads safer and more efficient, but as a driver, I would like to be in control of my vehicle. I think losing that freedom would be the biggest obstacle in converting our travelers to autonomous vehicles.

Vlad   February 11th, 2008 7:46 pm ET

I think GM vision is correct. After all most pilots rely on autopilot for cruise and approach but take over the machine for takeoff and landing. People will be happy to do the same with their cars.
The only serious problem I can foresee is "blame assignment" in the case of "autodriver" malfunction that results in accident.

Solar John   February 12th, 2008 9:31 am ET

GM also reported a $38.7 loss in 2007, and yet they continue to waste money on projects like this, and continue to make gas-hogging dinosaurs. GM is certainly on the right track with the Volt, but I hope that the effort isn’t too-little, too-late. America is NOT addicted to oil, companies like GM are forcing it on us, and we’re all paying a high price for their mistakes.

Solar John

PA Resident   February 12th, 2008 4:28 pm ET

As a resident experiencing quite the snow storm, what happens when you need to drive in adverse weather with these vehicles? What about emergency vehicles and these vehicles? Will your car yeild automatically to a police pull over? These would be some questions I'd ask before allowing these cars into the open market.

I can honestly say I would love to see an automated "highway" system. And a required "manual" system for non-highway use. Cruise control already exists but sometimes on a long trip that takes an hour or more on a relatively VERY straight line like an interstate, this seems doable.

Automation of this sort would make long haul trucking very interesting as well as all trucks could be equipped and that would allow truckers to specialize in city and urban driving skills while giving them the ability to be rested while on the "open" road.

Anyways It should be an interesting coming decade for automobile travel.

Texas Pilot   February 13th, 2008 1:21 pm ET

Most auto accidents, like aviation accidents, are caused by human (operator) error. Taking the potential for human error out of the equation invariably makes most activities safer. Hundreds of lives could be saved every year if drivers were required to use a well designed auto pilot system in their vehicles.

The other saving would be in air pollution. A tremendous amount of air pollution (and greenhouse gas) results when drivers are reduced to stop and go speeds because some bone-headed yahoo in a hurry is following too close and rear ends the car in front of them. An automated system would reduce air pollution from this cause.

Ray   February 13th, 2008 2:16 pm ET

This sytem already exists and in some areas (notably Europe and Japan) has been highly developed – it is called "A Train"!

Matt   February 14th, 2008 12:43 pm ET

Well atleast one wouldn't have to worry about the errant drunken driver nor a driver who's is driving from sleep fatigue. Hit a button, which even the most inebriated person can do and go to sleep.

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