Looking for a new vehicle? Got around $100,000 to spare? How about a self-driving car? According to the New York Times, you could find yourself in one that not only has great gas mileage and a plush interior; but drives itself as well.
Enter the 2014 S-Class Sedan, a brand new, top-of-the-line vehicle just unveiled in Hamburg, Germany by Mercedes-Benz with a new feature: the ‘virtual chauffeur’. This luxury utilizes autopilot technology from passenger jets, and will allow the car to park itself, brake for pedestrians, and navigate traffic in certain conditions autonomously. The company is currently in the process of fine tuning the car’s intelligence, but it is set for release in late September with the starting price estimated at $100,000. Unfortunately, this innovation is not yet perfected, and the car is still required to be piloted by a driver. However, that doesn’t mean that it won’t have an enormous positive impact.
Newer features are already being developed by Mercedes-Benz that utilize radar, infrared, and optical sensors, allowing the car to change lanes, navigate traffic, and reach speeds of 120 mph without a driver’s aid. These upgrades will be integrated into newer model cars in the next three to five years. Also, though one of the first to develop it, [easyazon-link asin=”B003XET6JG” locale=”us”]Mercedes Benz[/easyazon-link] is not the only company to unveil this technology in their cars. Audi, BMW, Lexus and Ford have recently revealed vehicles with similar self-piloting features, as well as a few new customizations, that will also be emerging onto the market at the end of the year.
With these implementations coming into the mainstream so quickly, it will mean that traffic fatalities, which are already expected to dip, will continue to decrease exponentially. To date, car crashes result in over 30,000 deaths per year within the U.S. Almost 13 percent of that number are pedestrians, and approximately 25 percent is alcohol related. These are issues that could be aided, if not altogether eliminated, by the self-driving technology, especially as it gains more autonomous features in the future.
As for when we will all find ourselves on a road where the vehicles solely pilot themselves, it is hard to say. Some think that the technology will be developed and mass produced in the next few years, but more skeptical individuals predict that it will be at least a decade. Either way, it will be fascinating to watch as innovative history unfolds.
I find it amazing that self-driving technology such as this can come into the public eye and be integrated with mainstream products so quickly. While it is still just in its beginning stages, I do not doubt that it will get caught up in the flow of exponential growth and be available on a mass scale sooner than we think.