Driverless cars

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By Ashley Halsey III  www.gulfnews.com

Nissan last year announced an “ambitious goal” of having an affordable autonomous car ready by 2020. Others who see that as overly ambitious think you’re more likely to see them in serious production a few years after that — say, 2025 or 2030.

Image Credit: AFP A Google self-driving car is seen in Mountain View, California.
Image Credit: AFP A Google self-driving car is seen in Mountain View, California.

How much will they cost?

Right now, the technology alone adds $70,000 to $100,000 to the cost of a vehicle. Few people could pay that much more for a magic flying carpet, let alone a car. Automakers are wrestling to make it affordable, and there are projections that by the time autocars go into mass production, the additional cost might fall to between $3,000 and $5,000.

How do they work?

Lots of sensory equipment feed into the vehicle’s computers. Radar, lasers and cameras collect data on the distance to objects and their speed if they’re moving. GPS helps, and an inertial navigation system in the computer uses dead reckoning to continuously calculate position, orientation, direction and speed of the vehicle and surrounding objects.

Without getting too deep into the weeds: Cloud-based data could be used to continually update the on-board computer, including data collected from other cars.

Can they deal with work zones, or cyclists and a kid in the street?

They’re pretty good at it now, and their developers are working to make them better. Sensors on the vehicle keep track of everything in its path, and the vehicle stops for obstacles or to navigate around them.

Questions and answers

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