CEDIA’s Seer was Right – Driverless Car Moves One Step Closer to Reality

Photo of Dr. Michio KakuAt the CEDIA Expo in Indianapolis earlier this month, the event’s keynote presentation was by the well-known physicist, author, and TV personality Michio Kaku who presented his rather dramatic view of the future – complete with a rash of technology predictions. Kaku’s presentation covered a lot of ground including military technology, the home of the future, the office of the future, future medical technology, and even the future of car technology.

Today, we found out that at least one of Kaku’s predictions is coming closer to reality, faster perhaps than even he imagined…

As we mentioned in a previous post, Kaku was quite the character. It always surprises me to hear a man of science cracking jokes in a presentation that was more comedic than calculating. After a somewhat lengthy discussion on why physicists can even predict stock market crashes, Kaku began a rapid-fire presentation that covered a lot of technology predictions.

It is highly unlikely that all of his predictions will come true. And perhaps, that was why he chose to cover so much ground in so many different categories. That way, if ever questioned in the future about his incorrect predictions, he will be able to point to those inevitable few that will turn out to be correct.

Car and [No] Driver…

Kaku force-fed the group more than 25 specific predictions covering a wide range of areas. But Kaku paused on one specific prediction – the driverless car of the future. Although he did specifically mention the Google driverless (also called autonomous) car project, the image he showed was not the Google car, but a version from some other technology group.

Photo of driverless car

The physicist was adamant about the need to address traffic accidents.

“40,000 people a year die in car accidents,” Kaku told the audience of tech-enthusiasts at CEDIA, suggesting that this represented more Americans lost each year than are lost in some wars. “Google has said that in eight years, we’ll have this car in your garage.”

Closer to legality, if not reality…

Today, we learned that Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, had signed into law yesterday, a bill that would permit Google to begin testing their autonomous car in some of the most populous cities in the United States. While Nevada had authorized testing last year, Google was eager to try out the vehicle in more congested scenarios.

“Today we are looking at science fiction become tomorrow’s reality,” Governor Brown proclaimed at a special signing ceremony to mark the occasion at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA.

The automotive industry has been slowly moving towards robotic cars, introducing semi-autonomous features such as parking assistance, lane-departure warning systems, and adaptive cruise control systems. But Google has been one of the most aggressive developers of a fully autonomous automobile with a multi-year project in which they have invested millions of dollars.

Photo of Google's Autonomous (Driverless) Car

The actual Google Autonomous Car

Includes fail-safe function…

Currently, the company uses a modified Toyota Prius that operates completely independent of a driver thanks to built-in video cameras, radar sensors, a laser rangefinder, and detailed maps. According to a story in Bloomberg News, the car does include a “fail-safe” system in which a driver can take control from the car by simply grabbing the steering wheel or touching the brakes – much like with today’s standard cruise control.

Although the new law has been signed, it directs the California Department of Motor Vehicles to develop regulations governing the licensing, bonding, testing and operation of autonomous vehicles. This of course suggests that it yet may be some time before California pedestrians will be dodging cars in crosswalks and shaking their fists at…no one.

 >>See a complete slide show of Kaku’s presentation and predictions here<<

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