New technology is making it possible to use smart machines to stop and even stop a car at a stop sign or on a highway, a major step toward replacing human drivers and making driving safer for people.
The technology could help make a driver’s job less stressful, said Mark Halsey, the executive director of the Transportation Research Board, a nonprofit research group.
He said autonomous cars could also be used to help make traffic flow in a certain direction without needing to slow down, like a truck driver.
He called the technology a game changer for transportation.
The idea was first proposed by Dr. William M. Dolan, a professor of electrical engineering at Cornell University, in a 1998 paper.
It is now being tested in a number of countries and by several automakers.
Dankos research was the inspiration for the recent breakthrough in autonomous driving, he said.
Halsey said the technology is very close to being ready for the road.
It can detect obstacles in the road ahead of it, then react to them with an onboard radar system, which helps avoid hitting pedestrians and cyclists, he added.
Drivers will no longer need to stop to react to other vehicles and pedestrians.
Autonomous vehicles could also save time by being able to make decisions quicker.
It would be faster to stop, for instance, when there is a large crowd, Halseys team said.
It could also make roads safer by reducing accidents.
Hales team is also testing a self-driving car.
It has not been tested in real-world conditions yet.
“We are going to be very interested in the safety aspects of this technology and how it impacts the human driver,” he said, but declined to name companies.
Dolan was among the first to propose the idea of using computers to drive cars.
He said the concept has been around for more than 50 years.
The problem with using humans to drive the vehicle, he explained, is that they have an inferior understanding of the road and are not used to operating an engine on a road.
He was concerned that people would lose their minds and be lost in a traffic jam.
Driving computers, he noted, could make driving safer by eliminating the need for human drivers.
Automakers are also testing autonomous vehicles that can detect hazards and react to the road by using radar, cameras and other sensors, said Scott G. Woodruff, an engineer at the University of Michigan.
He called the new technology a “game changer” for safety.
Driven by computers could also increase the number of people who drive.
This would help reduce congestion in cities and improve safety, he suggested.
It could also allow cars to take over more tasks, like driving, if they are used more frequently.
The concept of autonomous driving has also been discussed in some government agencies.
In a study released this month by the Transportation Department, officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Transportation Security Administration and the Transportation Industry Association said they are developing a system to detect potential drivers of self-driven cars.
The agency said it plans to have it on the roads by 2025.
The study looked at how autonomous driving would affect the number and location of drivers, how much time they would spend in traffic, how often they would make changes to their driving habits and how often a car would stop.
The agency said the system would be based on the “driver experience model” developed by MIT professor Richard D. Anderson.
Anderson’s research, published in the Journal of Applied Automation, looked at what happens when a person drives an autonomous vehicle on a street.
It concluded that driverless vehicles could improve traffic flow and safety, reducing accidents and speeding up roadways.
It is difficult to predict exactly how a self the driver would be in the future, Dolan said, because of the complexities of the human brain and the way it reacts to road conditions.
But he said the idea is worth considering.
The road to self-controlled vehicles will be long, but it is possible, he predicted.
The Transportation Department study said the government is “committed to developing a technology that can safely and securely drive and operate on the road.”
Halseys research is the latest effort to address some of the problems facing self-guided cars, which are expected to be on the market by 2025, he and his team said in a statement.
Dankos team is developing autonomous vehicles to help prevent collisions, like this one in New York City, which was caused by an accident.
Hollie McKay has covered technology and business for The Associated Press since 2003.
She has covered the intersection of the Internet of Things and the environment for the AP.
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