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商业 - 科技

无人驾驶汽车离我们有多远?

Doron Levin 2014年01月14日

现在围绕无人驾驶汽车的问题已经不是它行不行,而是它什么时候上市。不过,真正的问题可能在于,无人驾驶汽车技术到底对驾驶文化和驾驶行业到底意味着什么。

    消息灵通人士关于自动驾驶汽车的深谈已经与可行性无关了,现在大家关注的焦点是“什么时候上市?”,“哪家汽车厂商会首先推出这种车?”以及“如果发生事故,责任到底在哪方?”

    日产汽车(Nissan)已经表示将于2020年销售无人驾驶汽车。IHS咨询公司预计,到2025年,市场将推出好几款此类车型。这两个消息都有猜测的性质——但它们表明,这项技术的发展是何等神速。

    十年前还显得那么不可思议的事情现在已经变得十分可行,可以理解,而且无比真实了。谷歌(Google)那辆自动驾驶丰田普锐斯(Toyota Prius)已经在加州的公路上安全行驶了上万英里,没有出过任何事故。大多数汽车厂商正在赛道上测试自动驾驶汽车,同时——最近,正如我本周初在拉斯维加斯体验的——也在真实路况中开展这种测试。

    奥迪A7搭载了一套“堵车辅助系统”,它能在严重拥堵的车流中以每小时不超过40英里的时速自动驾驶(测试时奥迪项目组组长比约恩•吉斯勒博士就坐在驾驶席上)。这辆车上装了各种摄像头、传感器和一套特殊设备,能监测驾驶者眼睛的情况,以确保司机开车时不要睡着。如果司机真的睡着了,这辆车就会稳稳地减速、停止行驶,请求援助。

    大家不妨把无人驾驶汽车看成是机器人。对奥迪公司(Audi)和其他汽车厂商来说,关键问题是驾驶中到底有多少该由机器人来完成,多少该由驾驶者来完成。这其实最终还是取决于驾驶者自己。奥迪和其他品牌的高管都表示,驾驶者无论如何都必须保持介入和警觉,发生开错道或失控这类意外时要能随时重新接管车辆。

    奥迪的高管从来不用“无人驾驶”这个字眼,他们说的是“引导式”驾驶。其他品牌的高管说的则是“自动”或“辅助”驾驶。只有谷歌坚称自己要研发的就是无人驾驶汽车,也就是能帮助老年人和盲人,以及那些宁可在车上读书的人的自动驾驶汽车。

    Informed conversations about self-driving cars no longer are about feasibility. New key talking points are "When?" and "Which automakers first?" and "Who will be responsible when an accident happens?"

    Nissan has said it will sell a driverless car by 2020. IHS forecast several models available by 2025. Both of these are guesses -- but they indicate how fast the technology is progressing.

    What seemed unimaginable a decade ago becomes more practical, comprehensible, and real by the day. Google's (GOOG) self-driving Toyota Prius (TM) has logged hundreds of thousands of miles without incident on California roads. Most automakers are testing self-driving cars on tracks and -- lately, as I experienced earlier this week in Las Vegas -- in traffic.

    The Audi A7 equipped with "traffic jam assist" was programmed to drive itself slowly in heavy traffic at no more than 40 miles per hour. (Dr. Bjorn Giesler, head of Audi's project team, was behind the wheel.) The car was loaded with cameras, sensors, and a special device that monitors a driver's eyes to ensure he or she doesn't fall asleep at the wheel. In that event, the car will safely slow down, stop, and call for help.

    Think of a driverless car as a robot. For Audi and other automakers, a key question is how much of the driving should be done by the robot, how much by the driver. The driver decides. Executives at Audi and other automakers say the driver, in any case, must remain engaged and attentive, ready to take over in the event of the unexpected: a car travelling the wrong way or out of control, for example.

    Audi executives won't use the word "driverless;" instead they speak about "piloted" driving. Other auto executives talk about "autonomous" or "assisted" driving. Only Google is adamant that it wants a driverless car, one that can help the elderly and the blind, as well as anyone who would rather be reading a book.

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