9/23/2013 | 1 MINUTE READ

Autonomous Cars Emerging

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Nowadays, car companies saying that they are close to production-ready autonomous cars is akin to the situation a few years ago when boasting about electrified vehicles was all the rage.

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Nowadays, car companies saying that they are close to production-ready autonomous cars is akin to the situation a few years ago when boasting about electrified vehicles was all the rage. To be sure, there are more than a few hybrids and electric vehicles out there, but if you think about it, the only company that has really gained much in the way of volumes for electrified vehicles is Toyota, with its Prius lineup, in particular.

Recently, Carlos Ghosn, Nissan CEO and all-around guy-who-does-what-he-says said, "In 2007 I pledged that – by 2010 – Nissan would mass market a zero-emission vehicle. Today, the Nissan LEAF is the best-selling electric vehicle in history. Now I am committing to be ready to introduce a new ground-breaking technology, Autonomous Drive, by 2020, and we are on track to realize it."

He’s talking about production-ready autonomous cars and commercial vehicles.

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Not to be outdone, the folks at Daimler announced earlier this month that last month its S 500 INTELLIGENT DRIVE research vehicle drove for approximately 100 km, from Mannhein to Pforzheim, which included “some highly complex situations involving traffic lights, roundabouts, pedestrians, cyclists and trams.” It was pointed out that this undertaking, while research, did not include some massive rocket science reengineering of the S-Class, but was accomplished “but by means of production-based technology of the kind already available today in new E- and S-Class vehicles.”

And speaking of rocket science, Elon Musk of Tesla and Space X told the Financial Times last week that he’d have an autonomous vehicle in three years.

Which brings us to a comment made by Mark Campbell is a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell University. He leads a research group that studies and builds autonomous systems, including those of an automotive variety.

Campbell said, “I have to admit that I did not think mass production was doable by 2020, but I am beginning to change my mind. The power of Google in this arena has been tremendous, as Google takes an approach that is more research-driven, cutting edge and riskier than the car companies.

“With both Google and car companies working in this area, I think it will be doable.”

Well, if Google can do this, then autonomous cars ought to be a snap:

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