Depending on whom you ask, automated cars are either right around the corner, or still decades away. Elon Musk says a 90% autonomous Tesla will be on the market by 2017, while other automakers are aiming for closer to 2020. Ford thinks automated vehicles need to be introduced in steps, and the first step is this prototype Ford Fusion Hybrid fitted with Shrek-like LiDAR systems.
LiDAR is a radar-like systems that uses infrared lasers to scan the road and surrounding landscape 2.5 million times per second, painting an accurate picture for the car to basically drive itself. The system scans up to 200 front away, and can tell the difference between a paper bag and a squirrel, allowing it to make snap-second decisions that most humans couldn’t handle. Autonomous cars are coming hard and fast, and with perhaps more zeal than electric cars. Autonomous cars can also help reduce fuel consumption and emissions in ways most people just aren’t patient enough to handle.
Impressive stuff, though like most autonomous cars the vehicle still requires driver input, and this is merely a research project for now. Major advances will have to be made in hiding those hideous antlers for the LiDAR systems, though there is little doubt that automated cars will eventually be a major part of every automakers’ lineup.
Who knows, there could even come a day when driving a car yourself is outlawed. Some scary thoughts right there.