GM technologies 'will take over driving duties from motorists'

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Technologies being developed at GM are set to partially or completely take over driving duties from motorists.

This assessment was made by Alan Taub, GM’s vice-president of global research and development at the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress on 16 October. At the event, he said cars that partially drive themselves will be available by the middle of the decade, with more sophisticated self-driving systems by the end of the decade.

According to GM, sensors, radars, portable communication devices, GPS devices and cameras supply critical information to the driver and the vehicle’s computer system. Combined with digital maps, the same technologies will reportedly allow the driver to let the vehicle concentrate on driving while he or she does something else.  

‘The primary goal, though, is safety,’ said Taub. ‘Future generations of safety systems will eliminate the crash altogether by interceding on behalf of drivers before they’re even aware of a hazardous situation.’

GM said it is already putting some of these advanced safety systems into its vehicles. A lane-departure warning system is available on the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, while a side blind-zone alert is available on the Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban. Other vehicles, including the Equinox and Terrain, are said to offer back-up cameras.

Additional advanced safety systems under development will provide the foundation for autonomous driving, including an industry-first crash-avoidance system available on the 2012 GMC Terrain that uses a camera to help drivers avoid front-end and lane-departure crashes.

GM said the system uses a high-resolution digital camera mounted on the windshield ahead of the rear-view mirror to look for shapes of vehicles and lane markings, alerting the driver to possible collisions and lane departures.

Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication systems gather information from other vehicles, roadways and traffic signals to warn drivers about possible hazards ahead, including slowed or stalled vehicles, hard-braking drivers, slippery roads, sharp curves and upcoming stop signs and intersections.

These systems can be embedded in the vehicle or added as applications to portable devices/smartphones that connect wirelessly to the vehicle.

Similarly, the EN-V urban mobility concept is said to combine GPS with vehicle-to-vehicle communications and distance-sensing technologies to enable autonomous driving.

The EN-V’s capabilities include pedestrian detection, collision avoidance, platooning and automated parking and retrieval, where the EN-V drops off its driver, parks itself and then returns to pick up the driver via commands from a smartphone.