Drive

Autopiloted cars will hit the roads within a decade

February 28, 2012

Automated road train platoons, like this one by SARTRE and Volvo, could be commonplace soon. — AFP-Relaxnews picAutomated road train platoons, like this one by SARTRE and Volvo, could be commonplace soon. — AFP-Relaxnews pic

BARCELONA, Feb 28 — Autopiloted cars could be on the road within a decade, a new strategic plan from one of the world's largest automakers has predicted.

Ford's chairman and namesake Bill Ford took to the stage among technology companies at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week to reveal the 'Blueprint for Mobility,' which contains some intriguing insights on how the brand believes we'll be driving in the future.

Ford and its competitors such as General Motors already manufacture car technology which would have been unthinkable just a decade ago – radar-based collision warning systems, traffic-aware satellite navigation or automated parking, for instance.

But now, the automaker has offered its vision of what will come in the next few years, the mid-term and long-term, suggesting that we'll see a revolution in the way we drive.

Very soon, we'll see more autonomy in parking and driving in slow moving traffic, the automaker says, with more cars able to drive themselves in situations such as traffic jams (Audi is already embracing this future, planning to introduce the technology in the A8 over the coming years).

We'll also see new vehicle ownership models such as car sharing, Ford predicted – but after 2017 is where it really gets interesting.

Semi-autonomous systems akin to an autopilot could be introduced within a decade, it says, most likely using another vehicle's movements such as 'platooning', currently being tested by Volvo and the SARTRE project – this would allow the driver to sit back for longer periods, but still retake control when desired.

Most likely, the period between 2017 and 2025 will also see significantly more vehicle-to-vehicle communications, Ford said, helping to reduce the number of accidents at intersections and enabling autonomous highway lane changing and exiting.

Non-standard vehicle sizes for use in cities, following the model of vehicles such as the two-person Smart Fortwo, will also become more common.

By 2025, our transport landscape will be 'radically different'.

Smart vehicles – for so long a dream and now being tested by firms such as Google – will finally become a reality, pulling up outside our door to whisk us to the destination automatically.

The transport network will finally be integrated, says Ford, constantly communicating with a unified, cloud-based transport infrastructure which will help reduce jams and conserve resources – even, as seems increasingly likely, if it's by telling us to take a bike or the bus instead of the car to avoid the jams. — AFP-Relaxnews 

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