Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Too tired to drive?
GM wants to sell you a car that drives itself

Here at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we expect to see car electronics, but probably not electronic cars.

On Monday, GM boss Rick Wagoner unveiled a prototype of a self-driving Chevrolet Tahoe SUV developed with the help of Carnegie Mellon University. The vehicle is capable of handling itself in a controlled setting like the parking lot at the Las Vegas Convention Center, but not on a regular street with pedestrians.

Within a decade, General Motors thinks it will have the ultimate solution to the growing problem of distracted and sleepy drivers: a car that can do the driving itself.

The automaker expects driverless vehicle technology to be ready for testing by 2015 and in vehicles that it sells by 2018. G.M. hopes that the prospect of a driverless car will make the company, which has struggled to shed its image as a lumbering industrial-age behemoth, appear more up to date.

The vehicle that G.M. is showing this week won a contest sponsored by the Defense Department that required vehicles to drive themselves for 60 miles in a mock urban setting. The government believes this type of technology can dramatically reduce traffic deaths, most of which occur as a result of human error.

Automobile companies and universities have worked on several driverless car projects over the last 30 years, some of them developed in government-sponsored competitions. (info from The New York Times)

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