Blind driver: Self-driving cars give me the indepence to go where I want to go

Steve Mahan, a blind person, makes a strong appeal for driverless cars in a video released by Google. The video shows Mr Mahan in the driver’s seat of their autonomous Prius completing what for others may look like everyday chores but what for some groups of our society is extremely hard: Pickung up laundry from the cleaners, fetching something to eat at an arbitrary fast-food restaurant.

The freedom to move is a great accomplishment of modern society. Young people anxiously look forward to the time when they can drive around on their own, going wherever they want. But we forget that large groups are excluded from this freedom: Those with disabilities, the elderly (who may find it hard to continue living in their own home when they can no longer drive a car), the young (whose parents often find themselves in the role of personal chauffeur) and the poor who can not afford their own car.

Source: ABC News

Google’s low-cost PR video clearly outlines a major benefit of self-driving vehicles and is an attempt at shaping the public debate. This is crucial for any company before bringing a new technology into the market. While the Google car may still be a few years away, this video shows that the strategists at Google are carefully laying the groundwork for that occasion.

Continental tests its autonomous vehicle technology in Nevada

Driverless cars are heading to Nevada: Continental Automotive Group, a subsidiary of the German automotive technology supplier, revealed last week that it has started test driving a modified Volkswagen Passat on Nevada’s streets (both city roads and highways). The Passat has been equipped with Continental’s technology for highly automated driving. It has driven more than 6000 miles on city streets and highways, 90% in autonomous mode. Once it passes the state-required 10 000 mile minimum test-drive limit, the car could become one of the first to receive an autonomous car license in the Silver State.

Continental's Automated Passat

(Image source: Continental)

In contrast to the Google car, the Passat is not intended for autonomous operation at all times. It is a test bed for for Continental’s automated highway and traffic jam technology which can alleviate the human driver from boring driving situations. The close-to-production technology is also much cheaper than Google’s driverless car technology because it does not involve a costly LIDAR sensor.

With Continental another major player has publicly entered the race for driverless car technology. Whereas car makers are still dragging their feet on the technology because of doubts about cannibalizing their product lines, the business case is much more favorable for automotive technology suppliers. Delphi, Valeo and the likes will not be far behind…