Magazine article ASEE Prism

Sit Back and Relax

Magazine article ASEE Prism

Sit Back and Relax

Article excerpt

THREE YEARS AGO, auto enthusiasts hailed the imminent arrival of a General Motors driverless car by 2008. Not quite. But this year, GM announced the aim of marketing such a car within a decade. Last November, GM's robotic Chevy Tahoe, nicknamed "The Boss," autonomously drove through 60 miles of urban streets to win the Defense Department's annual robotic car competition, the Urban Challenge. Developed with the help of engineers from Carnegie-Mellon University, the Tahoe was one of only six finalists from an original field of 35, demonstrating how the technology still needs quite of bit of refinement.

Yet, as GM's chief technologist Larry Burns told reporters, "This is not science fiction." Indeed, most of the required material is already at work in cars: radar-based cruise control, motion sensors, satellite-delivered digital mapping. Sebastian Thrun, who co-led Stanford University's Challenge team to second place, thinks self-driving cars will eventually become a reality, which is a good thing since 95 percent of highway deaths result from driver error. …

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