Why 2013 Might Be the Last Year You Drive a Car

Most people don’t realise their car is actually a powerful computer. Computers in modern cars control the multimedia system, sat-nav, dashboard and engine. And approximately one third of all computing in cars is just to tell you what’s going on.

Have you ever wondered…how does the car start after pushing the start button? How does it know there’s 24km left to empty? How does it know the rear left tyre is at 34 psi?

Because as a car moves through the production line, sensors, computers and millions of lines of computer code are installed.

Mercedes Benz claims their new S-Class model has over 30 Million lines of code. And that’s just for the multimedia system.

In comparison, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Jets uses about 5.7 Million lines of code to operate its on-board systems. A Mercedes is more complex than a fighter jet!

But there’s more to these car-computers than just sat-nav and MP3′s. One of the aims of car makers is using technology for safety. Companies like Mercedes, Volvo and Audi are all working on their own version of a revolutionary safety project…

Automated Driving!

The World Health Organisation estimates 1.24 million people die every year as a result of car accidents. The most common cause of these accidents is human error. Worryingly, half of the fatalities are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

Further to this, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates car related injury and death has a lifetime economic impact of over $70 billion.

That’s why the need for auto-cars and auto-safety is so important. It will help eliminate human error from car-accidents. It might even eliminate car-accidents completely. That’s the real goal of auto-car technology.

It’s closer than you might think too. Mercedes said they could have put automated driving in the new S-Class. But they weren’t 100% confident the system would pick up everything, just yet.

They’re so close it means within the next 12 months we could see an auto-car on the market.

It’s not just car makers that are working on auto-cars either. Google gets a lot of press about its driverless cars. And for good reason. They’re doing great things with the technology.

Google fitted a Lexus with a complex array of lasers and sensors. With this technology, the driver can sit back, relax and let the car drive itself. The Google Lexus has logged thousands of driverless miles. And a fleet of Google Priuses with the same tech has logged over 500,000 driverless miles.

There’s a good chance if you live in the US you’ve passed one and didn’t even know.

You’ll continue to hear a lot about Google’s driverless cars, but don’t expect to be heading down to a Google dealership anytime soon. Remember, they run a search engine. They don’t make cars.

The other car maker that might put out a complete auto-car is Tesla Motors. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has been talking with the team at Google about automating the Tesla range. As reported by Bloomberg, Elon thinks, ‘autopilot is a good thing to have in planes, and we should have it in cars.’

Tesla has been working on the technology in house but aren’t quite at the stage of Mercedes or Audi. That is, they don’t actually have a test model yet.

When I look closer at the tech involved in auto-cars I see opportunity. But the opportunities might not necessarily lie with the car companies themselves. It might be with manufacturers of the tech used for these systems.

Take for example a company like nVidia. It makes cutting edge graphics hardware. It’s likely there’s nVidia tech in your smartphone or tablet.

You see nVidia have partnered with Audi, Tesla and a number of other car makers. They use nVidia technology mainly for multimedia functions. But one of the key partnerships is with Audi.

Audi use nVidia tech in new safety systems. nVidia say their hardware can detect pedestrians, read speed limit signs, improve navigation and avoid collisions. All functions crucial for an auto-car.

Its companies like nVidia that may benefit from auto-cars as more adopt the technology. And the future might just be a world with no road accidents ever again.

Sam Volkering
Technology Analyst, Money Morning


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2 Comments on "Why 2013 Might Be the Last Year You Drive a Car"

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I’m an IT Programmer and human error is always an issue but IT errors are not nessesarily better. Mostly human error in car driving has a statistical large chance of occuring but each accident only has a small area of effect (The car and another vehicle/pedestrian/property – and yes there are spectactular exceptions to this involving trains but mostly the effects are small scale) The introduction of computer driving opens a whole floodgate of issues that may have a low probability of occuring but have large area’s of effect. A simple example would be if while navigating the Brooklyn Bridge… Read more »

Oh great Luke. This should be amusing.

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