Continental’s Self Driving Car Furthest Along in Race to Be Road Ready

Continental’s Self Driving Car Furthest Along in Race to Be Road Ready

For better or worse, the age of the self guided car is rapidly approaching. The technology comes to little surprise with a healthy dose of controversy. After all, there are plenty of us out there who enjoy the feel of driving and would rather not see that pleasure obscured by cars with their own sense of direction ruling the road. But for those one the other side of the fence, commuters grinding through traffic, or truckers laboriously pushing used diesel engines over steep inclines, the Continental Automotive Group has a self-driving vehicle currently in testing that may very well be the first driver-free vehicles approved for use on public roadways in the state of Nevada.

Developed from the ground up using their own brand of semiautonomous driving technology, Continental’s version of the driver free car was designed with the consumer in mind, and utilizes tech they hope will be much more affordable than the far more sophisticated prototypes we’ve seen developed by other companies.

Google, for instance, has pulled out all the stops trying their hand at their first self-driving car, one that utilizes substantially costly, high-caliber equipment throughout. Google’s car, an outfitted Toyota Prius, uses a combination of highly sophisticated video cameras, a laser range finder and radar sensors to detect traffic and other surrounding the vehicle in real time. Google is especially well equipped for this kind of intense data load as their data centers are already capable of handling vast quantities of data at lightning speed. But again, all this sophistication comes at a price.

Ford chairman Bill Ford has also expressed his views toward the potential advantages of vehicles with the ability to communicate with each other and dynamically asses their surroundings. Mercedes and Audi have also made some degree of announcement in regards to their own development of traffic-smart cars.

But the Continental’s design appears to be the furthest along in the race. The design starts with a Volkswagen Passat. The brake and steering controls are then replaced with sensors allowing the vehicle to not only analyze its surroundings but navigate itself as well.

Continental is currently performing rigorous tests on their new self-guided vehicle to meet the requirements of Nevada’s special license which would make the vehicle road ready. In order to do that, the vehicle itself must accrue at least 10,000 miles of driving autonomously on the road. The company claims they are exceptionally close to reaching this goal and that approximately 90% of the driving performed was done without any intrusion on behalf of the driver. Part of this journey included a trip from Las Vegas to Brimley, Michigan, just outside of Continentals testing and development center.

Currently the company is hoping to reach its 10,000 mile mark within the next week or two. Now whether that means we’re going to see their auto-Passat up for sale anytime soon (or any self-guided vehicle for that matter) is very hard to say. If I were a taxi cab driver, I wouldn’t start fretting just yet, but this is certainly a substantial first step in the development of a controversial but potentially very useful new technology.

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