Most of the time, when it comes to autonomous cars, I am very positive that issues are solvable with open discussion and engineering resources. (It’s just a matter of time and money!) One of the areas about which I’m most sanguine is Navigation.
Currently, navigation is one of the more advanced areas of automation for a car. While I couldn’t quickly find a stat for how many drivers use GPS, here states that 70% of truck drivers used GPS 3 years ago. So it stands to reason that almost all drivers are using GPS in some fashion.
One of the technologies that MUST improve is navigation. A car that autonomously delivers you to the wrong location is worthless, or worse. Currently, of the problems most people have had is a lack of accuracy from their GPS. Whether it is that a road has been straightened or moved, or the signal accuracy just wasn’t there. If you’ve had this happen, you’re not alone. A Michelin Survey two years ago indicated that almost 2/3 of drivers had this happen. Furthermore most reported this happening on an average of 4 times.
While I continue to expect that navigation will improve, I’d like to talk a about some ways that navigation short comings will be bypassed. That is, the shortcoming will still be there, but what will we do to limit the inconvenience?
- “Grey” Areas on maps – That is, the car may require that a driver take over upon entering a “grey area.” I’m not talking area 61 here. This could be for any area, such as a state recreational area, that is insufficiently mapped. It may also work for addresses that are not in the system the way the GPS expects (for example, a township has two roads, or N/S are not identified.)
- Platooning – This would be that you would follow another car that knows the way. This might be a car with a human driver, or an automatic car with a “better” navigation system.
- Partial Trips – This may work if the final destination is in a gray zone, or if navigation somehow fails or loses accuracy.
- Learned Trips – If a person pilots a trip, the car could learn the trip and repeat it. If you have a long driveway with multiple houses, the car may need to be taught which house is the correct destination.
- Communicated trips – If I live at a house with a long driveway, I would have taught my car how to get me home. I should have a mechanism to communicate these directions to other cars.
Perfection is probably unattainable, and great improvements over the current state of things are achievable with a little out of the box thinking.