My dad, a General Motors engineer based in Detroit, called this morning to tell me he was standing in front of the company’s “Boss” robot — a modified Tahoe — that won the $2-million first prize in the Nov. 3 Urban Challenge race sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The automaker has hailed Boss as a step towards increasing automation in personal vehicles. Cue press release!
GM is focused on reinventing the automobile in ways that enhance driving safety and reduce traffic congestion, energy consumption and emissions,” Burns continued. “We look forward to integrating the technology we used in this race into our cars and trucks, and to ensuring future personal transportation is sustainable.”
Sustainable as in more fuel-efficient. But how does automation boost efficiency?
A robotic autopilot could choose the most fuel-effective route based on a given destination. Plus a group of intelligent cars could automatically form up on each other, drafting in turn to cut fuel consumption in half. Or, for drivers who don’t want to take their hands off the wheel, robotic controls could improve automatic transmissions. Bottom line, according to one blog (referencing a journal article):
Using telematics, i.e., traffic information collected using a sensor network, a car with a standard combustion engine and intelligent control that utilized the received information was as efficient as a hybrid car while it outperformed a standard car by as much as 20% in fuel efficiency during urban driving.
There are obvious military applications. In an age when logistics networks represent the military’s most vulnerable flank, cutting fuel consumption takes trucks off the road and saves lives.
Check out Urban Challenge below:
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