Saturday 29 November 2014

Driverless cars? Fine. People create the difficulties

Published 20/08/2014 | 02:30

Google's driverless car - it has been claimed that driverless cars could be a terror risk
Google's driverless car - it has been claimed that driverless cars could be a terror risk

"The car stopped at stop signs. It glided around curves. It didn't lurch or jolt. The most remarkable thing about the drive was that it was utterly unremarkable."

They are the opening words of a report (Reuters) of a test drive in Google's driverless car along the streets of Mountain View, Silicon Valley.

The technology easily handled routine driving. The car had a front-mounted radar sensor for collision avoidance. A revolving cylinder above the roof held lasers, cameras, sensors etc. Getting the cars to recognise unusual objects and to react properly in abnormal situations remain "significant research challenges", the report says.

And there are "ethical" issues: "Should a car try to protect its occupants at the expense of hitting pedestrians? And: who will be liable when there is a crash - the occupants, auto maker or software company?

The conclusion overall is as succinct and to the point as any I have seen: "Legal issues might be almost as vexing as technical ones, some experts believe."

Let's hope not. One of the technology's great benefits is the potential to reduce accidents and save lives.

Five things to make cleaner, greener cars

IT is hardly rocket science that we are going to get more efficient cars.

But it will take something like rocket science to make them.

Autocar has produced an interesting report that picks out the five key developments that it reckons will make the cars of the next 20 years so much more efficient.

Considering the pace of technological advances, and the continuous lowering of emission levels by regulatory authorities over the past 20 years, that is hardly a surprise.

It is claimed these five new technologies will help knock the average emissions on your everyday car to below 90g/km.

New EU emissions laws come into force in 2020. Here's what Autocar reckons will lead the way to help meet them.

• Coasting: We have this on some models fitted with dual-clutch automatic gearboxes. The next step is for a car travelling under 64kmh. The dream would be to decouple the transmission and shut down the engine when going downhill, cruising at speed, or coming up to traffic lights on the verge of going red.

• Electric turbochargers: They use a powerful fan to blow air through the turbo when the engine is decelerating to spin the turbo fan so there is a full boost when the accelerator is pressed again.

• Flywheels: A flywheel system to drive the rear wheels of a front-wheel-drive car is currently in testing. They could catch on because they can store waste energy and then release it, like an electric motor and battery. And they cost a lot less than hybrid set-ups.

• Variable Compression Ratio Engines: Basically an engine's compression ratio changes in line with the level of demand.

• Enclosed Wheel Wells: These would reduce air resistance or 'drag'.

It's all a bit 'wait-and-see' but one thing is sure: emissions regulations will NOT go away.

Irish Independent

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