Some day, you may leave the driving to ... your car
June 12, 1997
Web posted at: 11:40 p.m. EDT (2340 GMT)
From Correspondent Greg LaMotte
SAN DIEGO (CNN) -- There's hot new talk about driverless cars
that would let all its occupants sit back and relax while
cruising along a magnetized highway.
The federal government is funding a consortium of
universities, government agencies and private companies to
develop an automated roadway system.
"I believe it will develop ultimately into highways very much
like today's highways, that have lanes on them in which
vehicles operate fully automatically," said Jim Rillings of
the National Automated Highway System Consortium.
VXtreme streaming video: CNN's Greg Lamotte reports from San Diego
"These lanes carry greatly increased numbers of cars, two to
three times the capacity of today's lanes, and people are
free to use their time to do other things instead of
Here's how it works:
A car is loaded with radar sensing and steering devices that
interact with simple, everyday magnets that have been planted
along a 7 1/2-mile stretch of freeway in San Diego.
A sensing device underneath the front of the car communicates
with the magnets to keep the car safely on the road. A radar
system senses distances between cars, and adjusts the speed
and operates the brakes to maintain a safe distance.
"We can improve safety. Ninety percent or so of the crashes
that occur each day occur because drivers did something
wrong," said Steven Shladover of the Institute of
"If we have the computers and sensors on board the vehicles,
they don't get sleepy, they don't get distracted, they don't
lose attention. They're operating all the time."
With computers doing the driving, it's estimated that two to
three times as many cars could use a freeway without the
aggravation of gridlock.
"The vehicles can operate more safely, they can maneuver more
safely amongst each other, and the traffic can flow more
smoothly," said Dick Bishop of the Federal Highway
But with $200,000 worth of computer equipment stashed in the
trunk of each car, such high-tech vehicles probably won't be
seen in the showroom for another 15 to 20 years. It may take
that long to figure out how to make all the cool technology
affordable. In the meantime, keep your hands on the wheel.
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