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The auto industry has a lot of new and exciting breakthroughs, with much attention focused on autonomous vehicle research and connected cars. However, a growing number of companies are trying to produce flying cars that could be just a couple years away.
Moller International, PAL-V, AeroMobil, and other companies want to manufacture and sell flying vehicles by 2020 - and the race is on. Of course, consumers have heard this type of talk before, with numerous roadblocks causing research and development delays.
There are numerous regulatory issues that must be addressed, and that alone could take years. It's going to be a continued battle for manufacturers to prove that their vehicles are fit to drive on the road - and take to the sky.
The fight is on to provide content to connected cars, with AT&T reportedly preparing exclusive content that can be streamed to mobile devices. The videos, music and games could be available by the end of 2015, with AT&T already working with eight automakers.
AT&T is working with Ford, General Motors, Audi and others, interested in providing Internet connectivity in their newer vehicles.
"It's no different than being able to hook onto a Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere and get access to content you already subscribe to and get unique content that you could only get in the back of the vehicle," said Chris Penrose, SVP of emerging devices at AT&T, in a statement published by Reuters.
Nissan wants to have vehicles with self-driving technology on the road by 2020, but CEO Carlos Ghosn is curious to see if drivers are willing to embrace the new features. The company previously promised delivery of autonomous technology by 2020 - but there will need to be government approval, as new laws will need to be created for self-driving cars.
"Our cars will be ready," Ghosn recently said, confirming his company's aspirations for an autonomous vehicle by 2020. The Japanese automaker doesn't want to be caught out as its rivals push forward with autonomous vehicles and connected technology.
In addition to multiple auto makers embracing autonomous technology, Google and other Silicon Valley companies also are contributing software and hardware. Nissan just doesn't want to embrace autonomous vehicles, as there is a heavy focus on improving connectivity of future car models.
The Obama Administration understands autonomous vehicles are right around the corner, and wants to embrace the technological change. As part of the government's plans, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication will be a requirement, with other requirements now being worked out.
In regards to V2V, DOT is working with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to help expand testing for the V2V-reserved 5.9GHz spectrum. There will also be more communication regarding the national framework, as automakers and Silicon Valley push forward with self-driving car testing.
"The Department wants to speed the nation toward an era when vehicle safety isn't just about surviving crashes; it's about avoiding them," said Anthony Foxx, Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary, in a public statement at Delphi Labs. "Connected, automated vehicles that can sense the environment around them and communicate with other vehicles and with infrastructure have the potential to revolutionize road safety and save thousands of lives."
NVIDIA has plenty of experience in the automotive market, but wants to play a larger part in the growing craze surrounding autonomous vehicles. The company's hardware can help power automotive displays, automated driving systems, and other in-car technology that requires advanced hardware chips.
NVIDIA's technology can already be found in the Tesla Model S, Audi A8, and other vehicles - and will continue to gain acceptance among other automakers. However, the Silicon Valley company still isn't anywhere near Qualcomm, Intel, Texas Instruments, and Renesas Electronics, which are the leaders in developing and manufacturing automotive chips.
"They offer us computing systems with the strength" necessary to process large amounts of information, noted Ulrich Hackenberg, head of technical development at Audi, in a statement published by Reuters.
The 25 self-driving vehicles that will hit the open road from Google will include steering wheels and brakes, according to the company. Even though Chris Urmson, director of the Google self-driving car program, originally stated the prototypes "won't have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal or brake pedal... because they don't need them."
Google says the vehicles have endured "rigorous testing" at its test facilities, verifying that its sensors and software were prepared for driving on the road. Its new fleet of autonomous vehicles uses the same software that currently powers its self-driving Lexus RX450h autonomous vehicles, which has logged almost one million miles of autonomous driving.
The company will limit the speed of its prototypes to 25 mph, and additional passenger and pedestrian protection technologies will be available.
Google self-driving vehicles have had 11 minor traffic accidents during six years of testing, but the vehicles and human passengers were not at fault. Following reports that the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has received accident reports from three Google-equipped Lexus SUVs since September 2014.
Most reported accidents were caused by another vehicle rear-ending the Google autonomous test car, according to Google.
"Not only are we developing a good understanding of minor accident rates on suburban streets, we've also identified patterns of driver behavior (lane drifting, red-light running) that are leading indicators of significant collisions," said Chris Urmson, director of the self-driving car program at Google, in a blog post. "Those behaviors don't ever show up in official statistics, but they create dangerous situations for everyone around them."
There are around 50 self-driving cars traveling in California, with four of them reportedly involved in auto accidents since September, according to reports. Three of the accidents involved the Google-equipped Lexus SUVs, while the other was an Audi SQ5 Delphi self-driving vehicle.
All four accidents were low-speed incidents, at 10 miles per hour or less, with Google and Delphi saying their vehicles were not at fault in any of the reported accidents. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) didn't offer a public statement, though the DMV is now tracking self-driving vehicles.
Autonomous vehicle development receives a monumental amount of press these days, but there are overlying issues that must be addressed. One such issue is motion sickness, though it's a phenomenon that hasn't received a lot of widespread coverage.
Viewing video and reading are expected to cause motion sickness among some autonomous vehicle passengers. To make matters worse, 37 percent of US adult passengers in fully autonomous vehicles are expected to engage in activities "that increase the frequency and severity of motion sickness."
"Motion sickness is expected to be more of an issue in self-driving vehicles than in conventional vehicles," according to the "Motion Sickness in Self-Driving Vehicles" report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).
American drivers aren't fully onboard with autonomous vehicles that can drive themselves on public roads and highways, though it looks like it could be a reality sooner than many of us think. BMW, Audi, Hyundai, Ford, Mercedes, Honda, Tesla, Lexus, and other car makers are at various stages of research, with testing across the world underway.
Automakers are embracing technology while developing self-driving vehicles, pledging they can be safer than human drivers. However, drivers are worried about safety, privacy, cybersecurity, and other problems that must be addressed sooner rather than later.
"The rise of the machine is really happening," said Thilo Koslowski, VP of automotive practice at the Gartner research group, in a statement published by Bloomberg. "But a lot of consumers lack trust in the technology. That is the biggest issue facing these smart machines."