Nissan latest manufacturer to announce development in self-drive cars

24th October 2012

Films such as Blade Runner and Minority Report have given us a glimpse of what the future might look like, and cars that can navigate the skies often feature heavily in Hollywood's vision of events.

While it could be some time before we can fly cars, vehicles which can drive themselves may be within the realms of possibility in the not too distant future.

Nissan, the Japanese vehicle manufacturing giant, has announced that it is currently working on technology which would allow steering to become computerised.

The so-called steer-by-wire technology could be a reality as early as 2013. Although drivers will still have control over their vehicles, driverless cars could become a very real possibility.

In addition to helping drivers steer, the system would allow motorists to enjoy a smoother ride as they would no longer have to compensate for uneven road surfaces.

Nissan explained in a statement that "even on a road surface with minor ridges or furrows, the driver no longer has to grip the steering wheel tightly and make detailed adjustments, so travelling on the intended path becomes easier".

So, how does the system work? Luckily, telepathic signals from the driver are not required to get man to talk to machine. Rather, the "technology reads the driver's intentions from steering inputs and controls the vehicle's tyre movements via electronic signals", Nissan stated.

If you find the thought of being in a car without needing to steer it unsettling, you are probably not alone. No doubt the same fears were aired by drivers when the first automatic vehicles were sent off the production line.

Talking in an interview with the BBC, Jay Nagley, managing director of Redspy auto consultancy, suggested that people will eventually get used to the technology.

"I think initially people will find it a bit spooky but will be reassured by the fact there is a mechanical back-up if required.

"But over time I'm sure people will get used to it as its part of the bigger picture of self-driving cars where drivers don't have to be in control at all times."

Cars which drive themselves hit the headlines back in March 2012 when Google was issued with a license for the prototype of its self-drive vehicle in the state of Nevada.

A video appeared on YouTube of a man named Steve Mahan who was doing a dummy run in a self-drive car. Google states that the test was "a technical experiment, but we think it's also a promising look at what autonomous technology may one day deliver if rigorous technology and safety standards can be met".

During the journey, Steve sits in the driver's seat but is not holding the steering wheel and proudly announces "look no hands, no feet!"

Later he says that "this is some of the best driving I've ever done".

When the car comes to a junction, stops and turns left, the person in the passenger seat explains that "the car is using radar and laser to check and make sure there's nothing coming".

Google is clearly trying to make a point about the safety of self-drive cars, as the sting in the tail at the end of the Youtube clip is we learn that Steve Mahan is legally blind and has lost 95 per cent of his vision.

The company began its self-driving car project in 2010 with the aim of making driving "safer, more enjoyable, and more efficient".

California is the next state to accept Google's modified Toyota Priuses and Govenor Jerry Brown suggested that the move signalled that "science fiction [is now] becoming reality".

The Guardian conducted a poll of its readers to ascertain whether people would be happy to use a self-drive car.

Some 85 per cent of those questioned said they would go for a test-drive in one of Google's modified Toyota Priuses.

Despite protestations from the developers of self-drive cars about their ability to make driving safer, the US government has announced that it will be undertaking its own research initiative to determine just how safe and reliable the technology is.

Let ATS Euromaster help look after your car now and in the future.

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