By the year 2020, chauffeurs might no longer be exclusive to the affluent. At least that's the implication of the research currently taking place at Carnegie Mellon University as part of a joint five-year, $5 million partnership with General Motors.
Research at the laboratory is focusing on "creating and maturing the underlying technologies required to build the autonomous vehicle of the future," says Raj Rajkumar, a Carnegie Mellon professor and co-director of the lab.
The venture seeks to produce wireless capabilities, digital mapping, and other driving technologies in five-year stages, with the hope of reaching full autonomy in about 20 years.
The first generation, which could be released in about six years, will stress safety features. GM then will hone in on comfort and convenience features. Engineers suggest computer-driven autonomous vehicles will avoid human error.
Both GM and Carnegie Mellon have a history in joint ventures. The first GM-Carnigie Mellon Collaborative Research Laboratory was established in 2000 to study smart car technology.
The difference now is to advance that computer intelligence several notches.
"Imagine being virtually chauf-feured safely in your car while doing your e-mail, eating breakfast, and watching the news," says Larry Burns, General Motors vice president of Research and Development and Strategic Planning.
"We foresee a future where vehicles will be aware of their surroundings and to react accordingly," says Alan Taub, executive director of GM Research and Development. "We will begin with technology involving warning the driver of...