While monitoring the 24/7 Internet news cycle it seems not an hour goes by without another 'news' story about driverless cars, usually showing someone behind the controls grinning from ear-to-ear with their hands off the steering wheel like they're riding a roller coaster. The fact that these systems are merely an advanced form of cruise control never seems to penetrate the reality distortion field generated by the hype machine pushing these stories.
Speed regulating cruise control (originally named “Auto-pilot”) was first put into a production car almost 60 years ago. Lane Keeping Assist features were first introduced almost 25 years ago. A Honda version of LKAS that provided 80% of steering torque to keep the car in the lane on highways has been on the market since 2003.
Similarly autonomous cruise control with auto brake features was also first introduced 25 years ago and there are now 15+ auto brands offering these systems. Even cars that park themselves have been on-sale for over a decade. (2003 Toyota Prius) Yet as we're about to hit 2017 these functions still have enough novelty value that some media types have branded them 'robot cars'??
Self driving car (SDC) hype really leapt off the Richter scale when Google acquired a startup called 510 systems in 2008. A small team of UC Berkeley students with DARPA Challenge experience built a robotized Toyota Prius called “PriBot” for a TV show pizza delivery stunt.
It's clear that choosing a Toyota Prius to become the first road legal SDC was a strictly functional decision. The mass market adaption of hybrid and electric vehicle brake regeneration has played a large role in enabling self driving cars. The two features that allow relatively easy implementation of robotic control in production cars are 1) electric power steering 2) brake-by-wire regenerative braking. In conjunction with by-wire throttle, these systems allow direct control of steering, acceleration & moderate braking via low-voltage electronic signals that can be generated in software. This is why all SDC's are either hybrid or electric cars.
What is less clear is how well self driving cars handle high speed emergency braking situations. Despite hybrids and EVs primarily using regen braking to the extent that brake pads now last the life of the vehicle, anti-lock and stability control functions are still part of the legacy friction brake system that requires human muscle input to be operated. The work-around has been to restrict Google prototype testing speeds to 25 mph (40 km/h) and requiring a safety drivers onboard at all times.
Long article http://www.electric-vehiclenews.com/201 ... ne-or.html