Lloyd Alter is visiting the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as a guest of Bosch, and is looking at how technology will change the way we live.
The self-driving car is a controversial topic on TreeHugger, as we discuss how it will change the way we use our cars and how it will change our cities. According to Dr. Werner Struth of Bosch, parts of it are already here, and the rest of it will arrive incrementally. He explains:
Let me assure you that yes, fully automated driving will happen... The degree of automation will slowly increase at first, initially on freeways. in 2014 drivers will be able to choose a "traffic jam assistant" developed largely by Bosch. At low speeds this functions fully automatically, although the driver retains overall responsibility. Over time, assisted freeway driving will be successively more automated at even high speeds, finally reaching the point when the highway pilot will automatically take care of all the driving, from entrance to exit ramp.
So by the end of this year, when someone stuck in stop and got traffic reading and driving at the same time, you won't have to worry about whether their eyes are on the road.
The Bosch parking assistant
Parallel parking, like driving a standard transmission, is a dying art. People living in modern suburbs with double garages and shopping center parking lots never have to learn how to do it, and sometimes it is quite funny to watch people struggle to park their SUVs in spots twice the length of their car, often trying two or three times and taking up the equivalent of two spaces. I expressed concern to Dr. Struth that perhaps we should be concentrating more on driver education than automation, but he pointed out that driving has changed, and that not everyone has all these skills anymore, and that automation would let people park more quickly in smaller spaces.
It is also true that you can look in many parking lots and see that the standard parking space (8'-6" wide according to the bylaws where I live) is not wide enough to allow larger people to get out of larger cars; you often see them parked across two spaces to allow enough room. Perhaps I am too critical, thinking that everyone should be skinny and in a small car; a way of getting out of the car before it backs into the parking space could be very useful. As the press release notes:
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼The system enables fully-automatic parking into and out of selected parking spaces. Drivers are free to focus solely on controlling the process. They decide if they want to remain in the car or get out ahead of time. Even spaces so tight that the car doors will barely open will soon be no hindrance. In this case, drivers can get out of their car in front of the selected space and start the parking maneuver remotely, for example by pressing a button on their car key or smartphone. The vehicle then parks and pulls itself out of the space on its own, without the need for anyone at the wheel. To interrupt the maneuver, the driver simply takes their finger off the button.
I have no doubt that the Bosch parking assistant will do a better job than Woody Allen did in Bananas. Something to look forward to.