The Race for Self-Driving Cars: Is GM Taking the Lead?
Like many other car makers lately, General Motors have started developing a self-driving car, which they plan to put on the road in less than a decade from now. They have introduced their ”Super Cruise” system, which is being tested on Cadillac SRX prototypes. GM claims that their self-driving car will be able to brake and steer on its own, among other things that it will do automatically.
Thanks to adaptive cruise control and lane-centering technologies, it is capable of automatic steering and lane-centering in highway driving under certain optimal conditions, according to the company. This is a system that consists of cameras, which are intended to see lane markings, along with radars, that can detect other cars entering your lane, and can make the car go faster or slower in order to avoid a collision. Also, there are sensors that help the car go around corners.
The one feature that can set GM's car apart from other self-driving vehicles is the steering control. BMW, Nissan and Google haven't been able to add that feature on their autonomous cars. The Cadillac SRX prototypes equipped with this system will have to complete hundreds of thousands of miles or road testing before the technology can be ready for commercial use, but GM executives are confident that they will be able to put a self-driving car on the market by 2020.
John Capp, GM's director of electrical controls and active safety technology, said that the company still needs to work on making the car able to react and adapt to changing road and weather conditions, and figuring out how the system will interact with the driver. Unlike Google, General Motors are not planning to develop a fully-autonomous vehicle, at least for now, as their technology requires a person to sit behind the wheel at all times, so that they can take control of the vehicle in case the computer system fails. Capp is being pretty realistic in this regard, and expects fully independent cars to become a reality in about 20 or 30 years.
With GM starting to work on autonomous vehicle technology, the race for self-driving cars becomes even more competitive. The competition is pretty stiff, with tech giants Apple and Google seriously working on self-driving car projects, German luxury car maker BMW already having completed 10,000 miles with its self-driving car, and with Nissan planning to offer a fully-autonomous car on the market by the end of the decade. One might think that car companies have the edge over companies that are specialized in developing computer software, but according to a recent study conducted by KPMG, drivers would prefer to own a self-driving car that is made by Google, over one that is made by some of the world's largest car manufacturers. This suggests that Google is a bit ahead of the competition, and GM, and other car makers will have to work pretty hard to further develop their autonomous driving technology, and convince consumers that their self-driving cars can be as safe, and as efficient as Google's.
Jordan Perch is an automotive fanatic and “green cars” specialist. He is a writer for DMV.com, which is a collaborative community designed to help ease the stress and annoyance of “dealing with the DMV”.