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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics


Timeline of Driverless Cars Grant Imahara

I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest pet peeves is bad rush hour traffic. Everyone is trying to be where they need to be all at once, and the anger and stress caused by traffic jams only causes more difficulties on the highways. I’m looking forward to the day when technology grabs the wheel and does the driving for us while we relax in comfort and safety. 

That all said, human ingenuity in automotive engineering is about to take a huge turn. From the time Henry Ford helped make the “Horseless Carriage” an affordable part of everyday people’s lives, we’ve come to the point where we’re about to arrive at the next quantum leap in personal transportation.

The original concept for driverless vehicles was introduced in the famous 1939 New York World’s Fair Ride “Futurama”, and was highly dependent on roadway design. Their idea was that the vehicle of the future (specifically the 1960s) would travel through grooved highways, similar to a train, to ensure safe, collision-free travel at high speeds.

No, not THAT Futurama…

Unfortunately, when the 1960s finally arrived, we were no closer to the “automated highway system” we were shown at the World’s Fair. But now in the  21st century, where we have high-powered microprocessors and incredible, reliable sensor technology, we’re finally getting closer to letting the car decide where to drive. Certainly, Moore’s Law would be key to driving the future of automated vehicles, since driving around a “brain” the size of a room would be very highly impractical (not to mention, not very fuel-efficient). 

We now have all the elements we need to really usher in the age of the autonomous vehicle: a population interested in alternative and sustainable energy, a consumer electronics shift towards interconnected devices (a la the “Internet of Things”) and a continued drive to smarten our technology. Some projections say that the first commercially available driverless car could be arrive as soon as 2020.

I was lucky enough to spend some time driving around with Paul Godsmark of CAVCOE (The Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence), discussing the history and future of driverless vehicles, as well as chat about the present technology, challenges and benefits of connected cars with AVX Fellow Ron Demcko and Lance Williams of ON Semiconductor. But you don’t have to take my word for it, check out my experience here:

Oh yeah, did I mention that I got to do all of this while driving a prefect replica of the  DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the Future? As long as I have Doc’s Time Machine on loan, let’s explore the timeline of driverless vehicles. Buckle up as I punch it to 88 mph!

That’s it for now, but while we’re on the subject of Back to the Future, be sure and stay tuned to Mouser’s Empowering Innovation Together campaign for something special in the week leading up to October 21st, 2015 (otherwise known as Back to the Future Day)…



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Well known in the engineering community, Imahara has paired his engineering expertise with a Hollywood TV and film career. In addition to his roles on Mythbusters and Battlebots, Imahara is the inventor behind many famous robotic characters - including the Star Wars prequel-era R2-D2, The Late Late Show's Craig Ferguson sidekick -Geoff Peterson, the talking robot, and the rhythmic arms on the modern day Energizer Bunny. Up to his untimely and tragic death Grant was Mouser’s beloved spokesperson and brand ambassador who shared Mouser's passion to positively influence and support innovative design. 


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