The car of tomorrow will know the weather and how to drive better than you…

by Mike
Posted February 3rd, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Most of the sci-fi world may still be looking towards flying cars as the holy grail, but the truth of the matter is, there is plenty in the auto realm that is as equally enticing and exciting while still keeping all four wheels on the ground. As more complex electronics and computers move into our automobiles, the line between tool of the human and intelligent human transport system become become ever closer. In the year 2010, the person driving the car does most, if not all of the weather observations and corrects driving habits accordingly. The car of 2030 may know the weather before you do and correct itself whether you like it or not.

Nikolaos Georgis of Sony Technology Center in Sand Diego, California and a host of other scientists have filed for a new US patent for an in-car computer system that is leaps and bounds ahead of the “dumb” GPS navigation systems/computers currently found in a growing number of cars. The big difference between the in-car computer system of today and the envisioned systems of the future are what data is taken in, how it is taken in, and how said data is used to make adjustments via the car itself.

The car of tomorrow will not simply rely on a single source of information, say from a 3G signal. Instead, future cars and automobile computer systems will employ 3G signals as well as information collected from nearby TV/radio towers, and various onboard sensors. The information collected will then be assessed and used by the car itself to make informed decisions and alert the driver accordingly. Information relied to the driver could be as simple as a basic weather report for the destination city to displaying stopping distances at several different commonly traveled speeds on a particular stretch of roadway, to even going as far as to reduce vehicle speed (by over riding the driver) if the vehicle deems speed is too great for the current road conditions.

Getting the road conditions isn’t quite as easy as one would suspect. While Nikolaos and his fellow colleagues at the Sony Technology Center are focusing more on 3rd party streamed data and taking the technology as far as controlling the car outright, an R&D engineer with VTT (Tampere, Finland), who goes by the name of Pertti Peussa, isn’t too comfortable with the car ever leaving a human’s outright control. His solution calls for more “pro-active” detection methods using different types of lasers, radar, infrared waves, etc. With funding help from the European Union, Peussa and his team have narrowed in on traditional radar as the best option, citing it’s ability to pick up most to all road conditions — dry, wet, ice, and snow.

As a civilian from the outside of the project, I much prefer Peussa’s approach as opposed to Georgis’. Taking the car out of the human’s hands if even for a second opens doors to all kinds of new problems. Think of it as a modern age Pandora’s box. At this stage in the game and without advanced AI, a computer simply cannot make the educated decisions with the required reasoning abilities to safely navigate the world in a moving car.

Even still, the prospect of driving these “smart cars” in the not too distant future gets the geek inside of me all excited — worries of computer malfunctions or not. Chances are that 100+ years from now, humans will look back on such worries and laugh at how basic our viewpoints and technology were at this time.

But if we could fast track this technology, what would you choose: Nikolaos Georgis (Sony Tech. Center) and his computer controlled car or Pertti Peussa and his “human powered” cars? Light up the comments!

New Scientist

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