Since the automobile’s inception, innovators have been imagining new ways to change the way we traverse the roads. Science fiction movies and TV shows have illustrated many features once thought to be pure fantasy, such as a car that talks to you or can drive itself. But is this just fantasy? If so, fantasy may be turning into reality. Two of the biggest innovators of the modern age have turned their collective eye on the automobile. Apple and Google are getting ready to meet your car and make science fiction fantasy into reality.
What’s Apple Assembling?
Apple’s recent voice recognition software, known as Siri, made its debut in the latest incarnation of the iPhone, the iPhone 4S. It allowed iPhone owners to simply ask their phone a question and immediately receive an answer. This voice recognition technology enabled Siri to be spoken to as if she were a friend. This incredible technology may be available in your next car.
At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June 2012, Apple announced an ‘Eyes Free’ version of Siri they plan to integrate into automobiles. They are currently working with car manufacturers to create this voice control system. “Through the voice command button on your steering wheel, you’ll be able to ask Siri questions without taking your eyes off the road,” said Apple representatives at the conference. According to Scott Forstall, Apple’s iOS chief, there are several manufacturers lined up to incorporate this feature, including General Motors, BMW, Toyota, Honda and many more.
Apple did not announce a specific date, or even year, that Siri would start to appear in automobiles. According to Wayne Cunningham, a contributor for CNET, it may be quite a few years away. If you are anxious for a custom GPS unit with similar voice activation features, check out PartsGeek.com. PartsGeek even offers specific items for the discerning BMW owner.
What’s Google Up To?
Google reached for the stars with their recent project—a self-driving car! Google teamed up with Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to create a car that uses several GPS units, cameras, radar systems and spinning laser eyes to scan the road for other cars and various hazards. Peter Valdes-Dapena, a reporter for CNN, was given a personal look at this new self-driving car. He watched as the car recognized a group of children walk in front of it, then stopped and waited for them to cross. He also witnessed another car run a stop sign and dart in front of the Google car. The car promptly stopped to avoid an accident. However, Valdes-Dapena reported the car was only able to drive along pre- programmed routes the engineers had already driven the car along. Whenever the car is unsure how to handle a situation, it hands control back to the driver. The driver may also assume control by simply turning the steering wheel or tapping either the gas or brake.
The Google Car is still in development. According to Anthony Levandowski, the engineer in charge of sensor development for the cars, they will likely be sales ready before the next decade—possibly sooner. Unfortunately, you’ll still have to do the driving for the next few years, but kids who are in kindergarten now may never have to learn to drive, speculates the Washington Post. The Post also reports that Google is already in discussion with insurance companies and car manufacturers to help make self-driving cars a reality. Google’s first self-driving car has already been licensed in Nevada. Ian Paul, a PCWorld contributor, reports that a modified Toyota Prius was the first self-driving car to receive a license. This has helped ward off fears about the legality of self-driving cars and has set a promising precedent.
Where Innovation and Imagination Meet
Apple and Google, having revolutionized their own fields, promise to take their innovation to the automobile industry. While both of these companies’ innovations are a few years down the road, it is truly an exciting time in the world to be an automobile enthusiast. Self-driving cars that speak to us are quickly becoming a reality.
About the Author:
Ted Lawrence is a tech reporter and science fiction enthusiast. He loves Star Wars and Porsches.