Boss does the driving

Ambitious claims are being made about General Motors’ new, driverless car that was demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week.

Ambitious claims are being made about General Motors’ new, driverless car.

‘Autonomous driving means that, some day, you could email, eat breakfast, apply your make-up, read the newspaper, watch a video — all while commuting to work,’ claimed Larry Burns, GM vice-president of R&D and strategic planning.

GM demonstrated an unmanned Chevrolet Tahoe, nicknamed ‘Boss’, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week.

‘Not only can we use electricity in place of petrol to propel the next generation of vehicles, but the electronic technology in vehicles such as Boss can also provide society with a world in which there are no car crashes, more productive commutes and very little traffic congestion,’ said Burns.

Boss won the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency 2007 Urban Challenge competition, which required competitors’ robots to perform like cars with drivers, and safely conduct simulated battlefield supply missions on a 60-mile (97km) urban course.

The cars also had to obey traffic laws while merging into traffic, navigate traffic circles, negotiate busy intersections and avoid obstacles in under six hours.

Developed with Carnegie Mellon University and sponsored by companies including Intel, Google, CarSim and Caterpillar, Boss uses a combination of light detection and ranging, radar, vision and mapping systems to see the world around it.

It uses algorithms and software to recognise road geometry and perceive obstacles on the road, and has a maximum autonomous speed of 30mph.