Have you ever dreamed of installing a bar in your office? Well in the near future you may be able to install a bar in your car! That’s because car companies and tech giants like Google are working on autonomous vehicles that will be able to drive you around even if you’re drunk, blind, or texting a picture of yourself blind drunk. In 2011, Nevada became the first state in the US to legalize testing and use of autonomous vehicles followed by Florida, California and Michigan. Finally getting road head might not end with being cursed by an old Gypsy woman like in Stephen King’s Thinner.
We might not be taking a nap on the drive into work just yet, but here are a few self-driving cars that could soon be for sale.
Nissan Autonomous Drive
Nissan announced that it plans to have a mass market driver-less car available by the year 2020. The company recently demonstrated its “Autonomous Drive” technology with a Nissan Leaf (a fully electric car) adorned with special laser scanners, cameras and advanced computer technology. The car company even plans on building a fake town mockup in Japan in order to test the new fleet of self-driving cars. Nissan has seen how terrible people drive and hopes that the robots will be better at it, citing that 93 percent of car accidents are caused by human error. But while we're throwing statistics around, 100% of all Terminator murders are caused by robot.
ACTUAL LIKELIHOOD: 90%
The 2020 release date is not so crazy considering Nissan already has a solid track record of delivering on their bold statements. CEO Carlos Ghosn pledged in 2007 that the company would have a mass market electric car by 2010. Now, despite it’s completely pussy name, the Nissan Leaf is the bestselling electric car currently available. Seriously though, “Leaf?” Why don’t they just call it the Nissan “Little Bitch” and laugh while a mustang kicks sand on it and leaves with its girlfriend?
Terrafugia: Flying- Self Driving - Hybrid Electric Car
Ever since I saw Back to the Future II as a kid, I, like many people, dreamt of one day owning a flying car. As I got older, and a bit closer to the BTTFII year of 2015, this science fiction dream quickly evaporated. Who would want to let the idiots on the road become the idiots in the sky? Full electric cars on the market, (Tesla, The Nissan Leeeeeaaaf, The Volt) and now the prospect of self-driving cars would have to satiate these futuristic desires. However, it may come to pass that the thing that finally allows us to own the flying car of our dreams IS the self-driving car.
With a computer behind the wheel, authorities, insurance companies and families who don’t want a drunk driver crashing a half ton of metal into their fourth floor apartment won’t have to worry. Terrafugia has released plans for the TF-X, a self-driving, electric hybrid, flying car. The company has already released the Transition, which resembles a small airplane with fold up wings that is driven to an airport for a traditional horizontal runway take off. The TF-X takes things to the next level with vertical takeoff via rotating electric propeller pods. As an aircraft it would have a 500 mile range at 200 miles an hour, all while recharging the batteries when the engine is engaged. While safety measures will be built in for human override, the TF-X will be able to take off and land on its own.
ACTUAL LIKELIHOOD: 20%
Even with robot pilots, the prospect of terrorists commandeering flying cars to use as weapons could deter this dream from becoming a reality. Plus, if there is a malfunction with a flying self-driving car, you're now dealing with a car crash and a terrifying fall from the sky.
XchangE: The Lounge Car
Rinspeed has designed a concept car called the XchangE that focuses on all the nice times we can have in our cars once we no longer have to drive them. It's like Xzibit pimped your living room. The seats rotate 180 degrees and can fold down allowing future travelers a better angle at the 52 inch television. The XchangE even features a coffee maker to help keep you awake while you trust a computer with your life.
ACTUAL LIKELIHOOD: 10%
A few years ago Rinspeed came up with a Scuba Car that drives under water, is also a convertible, and has the special feature of that making no damn sense. The thing that makes this car unlikely is having a driver 7 feet and a nap away from a steering wheel. When lethal speeds are involved, it's probably best to have a human on hand to take over when the computer crashes. And there is probably already a virus written that causes your car to drive right to the nearest massage parlor.
The real life Tony Stark, Billionaire Ellon Musk, who founded Paypal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, has plans to put an autopilot option in his electric cars within three years. While Musk thinks it’s currently too risky to put a fully autonomous car on the road, he believes a feasible compromise is an autopilot system that drivers can switch on and off, taking control of the vehicle when necessary. It’s sort of like cruise control for people who are also sick of holding the wheel.
ACTUAL LIKELIHOOD: 75 Percent.
While eventually Tesla may have self-driving vehicles, the three year date seems a little bit wishful thinking. If Tesla comes out with an “auto pilot” feature, this would be far in advance of its competitors and no one likes to get cock blocked by “Tony Stark.”
Mercedes S500 Intelligent Drive
Like Nissan, Mercedes also plans to have completely self-driving cars on the road by the year 2020. The luxury car maker recently tested the S500 Intelligent Drive, which drove itself 60 miles along the same German road followed in 1888, when Mercedes tested out their Benz Patent- Motorwagen. Who knew robots were sentimental? Mercedes plans to install an “intelligent drive” system in its current lineup of cars and not create a “special” car. You hear that, robot cars? Your own father says you're not special.
ACTUAL LIKELIHOOD: 99%
Nothing is ever 100 percent, but Mercedes has already proven it has this technology right now with its S-Class: Stop & Go Pilot. Only available in Europe the tech allows the car to drive itself at slow speeds in stop and go traffic, maintaining a safe distance from the car ahead of it and staying in the lane. Which means it already drives better than anyone in the city of Los Angeles.
Google has been mapping every inch of the Earth for years now, so it’s no surprise that they have the technology to create a self-driving car, called Google Chauffeur. It’s like Google Street View but in real life… with a moving car that can kill you. Google led the charge to legalize testing of self-driving cars in Nevada and now has a fleet of Toyota Priuses outfitted with the self-driving tech. A laser beam on top of the car generates a 3D map of the environment around it and combines it with maps of the world, creating data to allow the car to drive. So maybe we should apologize in advance for all the thinking robots with lasers. Sorry, future.
ACTUAL LIKELIHOOD: 60%
Nissan, Tesla and Mercedes will probably beat Google to the punch as Google isn't an established car manufacturer. Let’s hope Google Chauffeur is more successful than Google Plus or the Chauffeur might force us to get into driver's seat before we can do anything YouTube.
Follow Phil Haney on Twitter @PhilHaney