Whether it was flying cars or jetpacks, we were all promised a compelling vision of the future at some point in our childhoods. And, although it may seem like science fiction, autonomous vehicles—cars that drive themselves—are more than just a promise; they are a growing reality. The widespread coverage in October 2010 of Google’s fleet of Toyota Prii that continue to navigate the highways of California was a clear message to the world that this technology is fact, not fiction. Questions remain, however, as to whether or not the world and the marketplace are ready for this technology.
To explore this topic, Beverly Lu and Matthew Moore (two PhD students at Caltech) conducted an assessment of the current status of autonomous vehicle technologies in the U.S—mainly through interviews with experts in the field. They focused on those technologies that are applicable to modern cars driven on existing, unmodified public roads. Their geographical focus was mainly on the west coast of the United States where a hotbed of activity regarding this technology is located.
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