Flying cars may still be the stuff of science fiction, but driverless cars are right around the corner. Combining GPS technology with state-of-the-art sensors, Google’s experimental self-driving car is a giant step toward the future. Initial test drives have been nothing short of phenomenal. (Click here to watch a Google’s test driver put the car through its paces.)
Look! No Hands!
The inventor of the Global Positioning System, or GPS, Bradford Parkinson believes robotic cars are the future of transportation. He foresees highways filled with self-driving cars where passengers can spend their daily commutes taking care of morning emails and phone calls or relaxing with an extra cup of coffee before the work day begins.
“I think (the future) leads to robotic cars,” Parkinson told CNN last year. “I think there will come a time when you go down the highway and you don’t have to have your hand on the steering wheel at all. It’ll be a combination of GPS, radar and other sensors.”
The idea for a satellite-based navigation system was an outgrowth of Parkinson’s experiments with inertial navigation systems and his experiences as an Air Force combat pilot. Despite its promise, Parkinson told CNN he had a tough time convincing his Air Force superiors of the value of the new technology during its early development in the 1980s.
Fortunately, Parkinson’s invention caught the interest of the Navy and opened a new chapter in military navigation. It wasn’t long before GPS jumped to civilian markets and became an essential part of everyday life.
Hitting the Highway
The integration of GPS technology with advanced radar and sensory systems is making self-driving cars a reality. California became the first state to legalize self-driving vehicles in 2012, but regulations governing their use will not be finalized by the California Department of Motor Vehicles until next year. Experts expect the first driverless cars to appear on the highway by 2016. The future is now!
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