Robot Cars and Killer Apps

Posted 26 Feb 2007 at 20:08 UTC by steve Share This

Nelson Bridwell writes, The press recently covered a talk by Sebastian Thrun at the AAAS conference in San Francisco where he suggested that widespread acceptance and usage of self-driving automobiles will be quite a few years down the road: “By 2030, roughly, we should be able to deploy this technology on highways, where we would improve human reliability by orders of magnitude.” I feel that he deserves additional credit for this unusually conservative forecast that (unlike too many PR departments) does not make totally unrealistic promises. However, it has occurred to me that it may be possible to put this autonomous technology out on the streets much earlier than 2030 if we were to employ very small (3’) lightweight (200 lb) vehicles for autonomous parcel delivery. This could possibly become the “Killer App” for sophisticated (sorry, Roomba!) mobile robot technology. However, as Jim McBride, a Ford engineer working on the Urban Challenge, recently pointed out to me, we had best not label it a “Killer Robot App!”

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