the Self-Driving Car from Audi and Toyota – videos

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Audi and Toyota unveiled their self-driving concept cars.

Audi demonstrated a car that can park itself in a garage after dropping you off. When you return, you can summon the car with a phone app; the car drives itself from its parking spot to you. That, however, is not so much a self-aware car as a self-aware garage; it requires that the garage itself be equipped with special laser guides. And the driving is very, very slow and controlled.

Audi is working on a traffic-jam mode, in which you can take a nap, work or do some reading as the car handles the slow, patient, touch-and-go edging through crawling traffic.

Audi says it’s thinking long-term — years away — for these features to become real futures.

Toyota / Lexus  held a news conference in which it showed a video of its advanced active safety research car. It’s more like Google’s project: a completely autonomous, self-driving car. Lexus says that the point is safety: that you must be behind the wheel at all times, and that years of lobbying, demonstrating and building trust lie ahead before these will be available to consumers.

Google, of course, is at the forefront of this technology; it’s had a successful self-driving car experiment running for some time now. (Actually, it has 12 such cars now.) Google wasn’t at C.E.S.

With Audi and Toyota working on the project I feel better about it than Google’s efforts since they have experience with how cars are built and supposed to work.

Few industries are as heavily regulated as automobiles, so it is doubtful if these things will ever see the light of day until their reliability has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Keep in mind that the competition for a self-driving car is a person-driven car — and that, these days, is something truly worth fearing.

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