The Evolution of Driverless Cars

It’s fascinating to note that Google’s self-driving cars had already traveled over 500,000 miles by 2013. Driverless cars fall into two categories, autonomous and automated, depending on their control mechanism.

Driverless cars have always been seen as vehicles of the future, similar to robot butlers and a Windows Operating System that never crashes. However, with some companies releasing fully functional, semi-autonomous cars, autonomous driving is not that far off.

The idea of sitting back and letting a car take you across the country is undoubtedly exciting, but how far are we from this dream? What progress have we made, and what’s yet to come? This article will explore the timeline of achievements in this field.

Who Started It All?

We must first look at the pioneers in this field of automotive technology, who pushed boundaries and tried to fulfill an otherwise impossible dream.

In the 1920s, inventors made their first test run with the “linrrican Wonder,” showcasing the Houdina Radio Control, a radio-controlled driverless car that traveled through a traffic jam in New York City. The second car directly behind controlled it, sending radio impulses that were received by an antenna and sent signals to circuit-breakers that directed the car’s movement.

As with all futuristic ideas, the anticipated timeline was way off. Norman Bel Geddes predicted in the 1930s that the 1960s would be the era of automated cars, but that was not the case.

The 1950s saw some further testing and advancements in this field, but the 1980s marked the next significant era in reaching the driverless car dream. In 1980, Mercedes tested a vision-guided robotic van that achieved a speed of 39 mph on an open road. The Prometheus Project from EUREKA aimed to create autonomous vehicles from 1987 to 1995.

In America, the Autonomous Land Vehicle (ALV) project carried out the first example of a car following a computer vision and autonomous robotic control road, using newly developed technology from scientific powerhouses such as the University of Maryland. The ALV HRL Labs in 1987 displayed the first off-road map and sensor-based autonomous navigation, going over 2,000 feet at 1.9 mph on difficult terrain.

The biggest development in 1989 was Carnegie Mellon University’s display of neural networks to steer and control autonomous vehicles, which laid the foundation for contemporary control plans.

Developments in the 1990s

During the 1990s, scientists developed more vehicles and technologies to go further, faster, and more autonomously than ever before. In 1995, Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab project, or “No Hands Across America,” completed a 3,100-mile cross-country journey. Although it was semi-autonomous, the throttle and brakes were human-controlled for safety purposes.

The ARGO Project was a significant step forward for the development of autonomous cars. It began in 1996 and involved using a modified Lancia Thema to follow lane markings on a motorway in Italy. The vehicle had two low-cost cameras and used stereoscopic vision algorithms to navigate its environment, covering 1,200 miles at an average speed of over 56 mph.

In the years that followed, there were many advances in driverless car technology. In 2009, Ford introduced self-parking systems as standard in their vehicles, and Google began working on autonomous cars in 2010. By 2012, Google’s self-driving car had transported its first blind passenger, and the company plans to make these cars available to the public in less than five years. Mercedes and Nissan have also announced plans to commercialize driverless cars by 2020.

Tesla’s Model S broke new ground in 2015 by combining a sleek design with a smooth driverless system. Although drivers must remain ready to take control if necessary, the car is 92% autonomous and can handle side collision avoidance, auto lane changing, and automatic parallel parking. Legislation has also been introduced to regulate driverless cars, with Nevada becoming the first US state to license them in 2012.

Looking ahead, the Royal Academy of Engineering predicts that unmanned autonomous vehicles will be traveling along Britain’s motorways by 2019. Tesla plans to release a fully autonomous car within two years, and many other manufacturers are developing new technologies like self-parking, cruise control, and self-braking. With technology becoming more powerful every year, a fully autonomous vehicle is just a matter of time.


1. What is the history of driverless cars?

The concept of driverless cars dates back to the 1920s, when the first radio-controlled car was demonstrated. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the first prototypes of autonomous vehicles were developed. Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab project, which began in 1984, was one of the first major efforts to create a driverless car. The project resulted in the creation of a vehicle called “Navlab 1,” which used cameras and other sensors to navigate the road. Since then, technological advancements have led to the development of more sophisticated autonomous vehicles, with companies like Google, Tesla, and Uber all investing heavily in the technology.

2. What are the benefits of driverless cars?

Driverless cars have the potential to bring a wide range of benefits. One of the most significant is increased safety. Autonomous vehicles are designed to eliminate human error, which is a leading cause of accidents on the road. Additionally, driverless cars could help reduce traffic congestion, as they are able to communicate with each other and optimize their routes. They could also make transportation more accessible for those who are unable to drive, such as the elderly or disabled. Finally, driverless cars could have positive environmental impacts, as they are typically electric and emit fewer greenhouse gases than traditional vehicles.

3. What are some of the challenges facing the development of driverless cars?

While the potential benefits of driverless cars are significant, there are several challenges that must be addressed before they become a reality. One of the biggest challenges is developing the technology to a point where it can safely navigate complex driving scenarios. Additionally, there are legal and regulatory hurdles to overcome, as current laws and regulations were not written with autonomous vehicles in mind. Finally, there is the issue of public acceptance. Many people are skeptical of the safety and reliability of driverless cars, and it will take time to build trust in the technology.

4. When can we expect to see widespread adoption of driverless cars?

While it’s difficult to predict exactly when driverless cars will become mainstream, many experts believe that we are still several years away from widespread adoption. While some autonomous vehicles are already on the road, they are typically limited to specific geographic areas and driving scenarios. Additionally, there are still many technical and regulatory challenges that must be overcome before driverless cars can be deployed at scale.

5. How will driverless cars impact the job market?

There is much debate about how driverless cars will impact the job market. While some argue that they will lead to widespread job loss, others believe that they will create new job opportunities. On the one hand, there is concern that autonomous vehicles will replace human drivers, potentially leading to the loss of millions of jobs. On the other hand, the development and deployment of driverless cars will require significant investment in research, development, and manufacturing, which could create new job opportunities. Additionally, there may be new roles created to support the operation and maintenance of autonomous vehicles.

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