Niagara Gazette

Columns

November 7, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: Diesel becomes the 'norm' and other auto news

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Tesla seeking engineers to develop self-driving cars

Eschewing more traditional means of recruitment, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is using Twitter to hire engineers that will be tasked with developing an autopilot system expected to debut on the battery-powered Model S. Musk ambitiously hopes the technology will be ready for mass production in three years.

The yet-unnamed system is still at the embryonic stage of development but the CEO promises it will be capable of controlling the Model S in about 90 percent of driving situations. Musk predicts that fully autonomous cars requiring no driver input whatsoever will take longer to develop for a host of legal and technological reasons.

A company spokesperson confirmed the system is being developed in-house, putting an end to rumors of a tie-up between Tesla and Google in the field of self-driving cars. Similar to a plane’s autopilot system, Tesla’s technology will drive the car in everyday situations such as when cruising on the highway, but it will require driver input in more complicated situations. A switch on the dashboard will enable the driver to turn autopilot on and off.

Tesla’s self-driving system might be the first on the market, but it will face stiff competition from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Nissan, General Motors and components manufacturer Continental before the end of the decade.  

New anti-theft system works with brain waves

It’s hard out there for a thief today, and it’s getting harder. Once upon a time, all the bad guys needed to do was find an unlocked vehicle. Now, they’ve got to fight their way past kill switches, LoJack devices, and OnStar (not to mention the impending arrival of digital license plates, voice-identification, and fingerprint-recognition). 

But all those gadgets pale in comparison to the latest theft-prevention tool. According to Mashable.com, Isao Nakanishi and his colleagues in the graduate school of engineering at Japan’s Tottori University have developed a prototype for a safety system that uses brain waves to identity drivers. The system takes samples of brain waves from a driver and stores them in a database. If a vehicle begins moving and the driver’s brain waves don’t match those on file, the vehicle is disabled. The system can also tell if a driver is drunk or falling asleep, since brain waves in those circumstances vary significantly from samples taken when a motorist is fully awake and sober.

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Columns
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