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USA: New York Auto Show: Cars Will Drive Themselves — Better Than Humans Can

Let’s count just some of the ways battery-powered electric vehicles in a “networked” environment are superior to gasoline-powered vehicles that aren’t.

One-fifth as heavy;
Three times as efficient;
One-tenth as many parts;
One-fifth the parking space.
These numbers are according to Larry Burns, co-author of a book called Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century. Not incidentally, he’s a former research vice president for General Motors, where he worked on the project to create the tiny EN-V vehicle, short for Electric Networked Vehicle, to explore how “networked” vehicles might work.

There’s a whole lot more to the concept than just the vehicle, like a “smart” electrical grid; ride-sharing; and on and on. Burns envisions a future environment where cars have so many sensors and ways to communicate with each other, with the infrastructure, and every which way, that they literally can’t crash into anything, or into each other. Granted, Burns said that would require an environment where all cars had the same capabilities.

In that environment, cars could drive themselves, and more safely than you can. “The intent is to have the self-driven vehicle be the safest driver in America,” he said. Incidentally, Burns said the technology required for “self-driven” vehicles is getting so good, they could become practical in a mixed environment with ordinary cars much faster than “networked” vehicles in a uniformly networked environment.

To satisfy legal requirements today and in the near future, there needs to be an alert driver in the driver’s seat, to intervene in an emergency, he said. Google has created such a self-driven car using Google map data along with a lot of other sensors, he said. While Google dutifully stations a driver at the wheel, it hardly seems necessary, according to Burns.


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