You are on page 1of 3

Newsela | Fully self-driving cars years away from ruling the roa...

Fully self-driving cars years away from ruling the road, GM says
By D e t r o i t F r e e P r e s s , a d a p t e d b y N e w s e l a s t a f f

N o v . 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 midnight

A Google driverless car is operating on a testing path. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON — A top person at General Motors said technology that could lead to driverless, or autonomous, cars is improving steadily. But, drivers will be necessary for many years to come. Mike Robinson, GM’s vice president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs, told the U.S. House’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee that for the “foreseeable future” drivers will “still need to be engaged and in control.” He said, “For the most part, people assume than an autonomous vehicle will take you to your destination without any personal involvement." This idea is still a ways off though, Robinson says.
1 of 3

The subcommittee called the hearing to discuss the technical advances. Many people believe that self-driving vehicles could be available in the near future, and

11/21/13 12:27 PM

concerns about their safety. committee Newsela | have Fully self-driving cars years away from The ruling the roa... noted

that Google Inc. has said it had logged hundreds of thousands of accident-free miles in autonomous vehicles. However, Google has announced no plans to sell self-driving vehicles.

A Driverless Nissan By 2020?
Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn has said he wants the company to make an “affordable, autonomous-drive vehicle” by 2020. That's according to Andrew Christensen, senior manager of technology planning at Nissan Technical Center in Michigan. Christensen acknowledged that the company hasn’t determined what the exact goals would be for that vehicle. But, he said that it would have “some level of clear autonomous capability with the driver.” As the subcommittee noted in a report, some cars can already do some things automatically. Cars with automatic brakes or that can park on the street themselves are available. Integration of those technologies with throttle and steering control “will begin to reduce the need to driver control of the vehicle.” Someday, autonomous vehicles will navigate the road without human input. By using electronic sensors and cameras cars can react to well-defined lane and curb markers. Officials said vehicles could move more smoothly and maintain a constant distance between vehicles. The benefit is potentially a traffic system that is less congested and safer. It could also reduce fuel costs. “This is technology that is going to be liberating,” said Robinson.

"Far Off In The Future"
Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued plans for research on autonomous vehicles. It proposed to look into connectedvehicle technology. It would allow self-driving cars to communicate through wireless radio signals. That would allow for transmitting information on speed, lane departure and other info. NHTSA head David Strickland said his agency is looking closely at self-driving vehicle technology. But, he said that a fully autonomous vehicle is “far off in the future.” Several officials said one issue to getting self-driving vehicles on the road will be “social acceptance.” Will customers buy expensive automobiles that don’t require as much involvement by a driver? Robinson said some autonomous technology, such as helping a vehicle maintain lane control, could be on the market within 10 years. Congress should continue to let automakers develop new features so customers can choose what they like, he said. And it should work to block any move where states would each develop their own standards for vehicles.

2 of 3

11/21/13 12:27 PM

Newsela | Fully self-driving cars years away from ruling the roa...

Road Tests

Kirk Steudle is the head of Michigan’s Department of Transportation. But, he also testified on behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. He said there is a need to speed up testing across the country and not one state at a time. Last week, Michigan’s state Senate approved legislation that would allow for testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. A handful of other states have taken similar steps. The legislation would still need to be approved in the Michigan House before becoming law in the state. At the hearing Tuesday, there were also suggestions that the government could help protect automakers from lawsuits. At least, while the technology is developing. GM's Robinson said that GM isn't concerned with what to charge for the cars right now. “We’re not looking at what we’re going to price 10 years from now. We’re looking at what we do today that can add value,” he said. Strickland said as the research continues, the government will have to make sure the technology is safe. The first big news, he said, is about what any technological leap promises. But, the second is if one of these technologies doesn’t do what it is supposed to do.

© 2013 NEWSELA

3 of 3

11/21/13 12:27 PM