General Motors prepares for the arrival of the self-driving vehicle

Andross Moonah - CAP staff
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The self-driving car is an age-old fantasy that now seems poised to become reality due to continuous innovations in technology. In anticipation of this breakthrough, General Motors and its research partners recently set out to determine how driver behaviour would change in this new age of the self-driving automobile. The study focused on how non-driving activities can influence driver behaviour in self-steering, semi-autonomous vehicles.

General Motors' research took place in a driving simulator at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis and with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute on a General Motors test track in Michigan. The study examined a driver's visual attention during hands-on steering and when an automated vehicle was steering itself. In both cases, full-speed range adaptive cruise control was engaged. As General Motors claims, the research showed that driver attentiveness could be improved through the implementation of driver assistance and safety features.

"Drivers are already engaging in risky behavior, and are likely to continue doing so given the prevalence of smartphones and other portable electronics, so why not make it safer for them and the people around them," said Dr. Eddy Llaneras, principal investigator at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute on the study. "Offering some form of vehicle automation with the proper safeguards might be better than what is happening on our roads today."

The study showed that driver monitoring and assistance features such as Forward Collision Alert significantly improve attentiveness. In fact, the drivers tested increased their focus on the road ahead by 126-percent when automated steering was engaged, according to General Motors, therefore increasing detection and response to roadway events.

"People have dreamed of having self-driving cars for decades, but having that capability will be a major adjustment for people when it is first introduced," said John Capp, GM director of Global Active Safety Electronics and Innovation. "This study is helping GM and its research partners determine the best methods for keeping drivers engaged."

At this point in time, General Motors is still years away from mass-producing a self-driving automobile. However, the foundation for such systems exists now in the Driver Assist Package that will be available within General Motors' Cadillac brand of vehicles. The new 2013 Cadillac XTS and ATS sedans will feature such technologies as full-speed range adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. Both systems are designed to prevent collisions caused by human error.

"At GM, we recognize that autonomous vehicles will require robust safeguards," Capp said. "By studying driver behavior in automated driving scenarios we are better able to identify the types of driver assistance and safety features that automated cars will need."

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Cadillac, Safety, General Motors,

Organizations: General Motors

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