Battle hardened, robot-driven cars by 2030

A scientist speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in San Francisco has predicted robot-driven cars that could drive humans around by the year 2030. Intelligent robot vehicles are likely to be used on battlefields even sooner though predicts Sebastian Thrun, an associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Stanford University. Thrun is leading the Standford team again in this year's 60 mile DARPA Urban Challenge (see related post). reports Thrun as saying, "I think they'll be on the battlefield by around 2015. It is going to make sense to use them in situations such as convoys, or in hostile environments where there is danger to personnel."

Computer aided driving systems are already filtering into luxury cars and fully robotic systems are sure to follow. Autonomous Cruise Control is a good example that is already available on a wide range of both luxury and mainstream car brands. The system utilises radar or lasers to monitor the distance between the car and the vehicle in front and will automatically slow the car down or speed up when required.

Another example of computer aided driving is Adaptive Braking, a technology found in the new 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Adaptive braking includes hill assist and panic brake assist. The hill assist detects when you are starting on a slope and maintains some brake pressure in the calipers when you move your foot to the accelerator until you actually apply the gas, to keep you from rolling back down the hill. The panic brake assist detects when you do a quick brake apply and helps to apply full pressure.

Analysis: Sounds to me like cars in 2030 are going to be a cross between the Terminator and the Maglevs of Minority Report. They'll get you where you want to go quickly, safely and with the highest degree of comfort but wont let other robotic cars cut in front of them in traffic. Hopefully the robotic cars wont rise up against their human masters post-2015 and we'll all get the chance to enjoy being safely chauffeured around circa-2030.


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