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article imageOp-Ed: Smart cars, intelligent cars, and robotic cars

By Ken Hanly     Jul 21, 2017 in Technology
There are three categories of cars that could be called smart cars. One smart car is a brand the German-based Smart Car, although its primary assembly plants are in France and Slovenia.
The second type of smart car embeds modern technology into the car design allowing for many new innovative features. Finally, there is the robotic, self-driving, or autonomous car that can function without a driver.
In 1982, CEO Nicolas Hayek of SMH the maker of Swatch watches started to develop the idea of a small and stylish city car that would use the same type of manufacturing and personalizatiion features that had been successful in making Swatch watches popular. Although the car was briefly backed by Volkswagen, the Smart Car later became part of Mercedes-Benz: A deal was announced on March 4, 1994, at a press conference at Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart that the companies would join forces in founding Micro Compact Car AG (MCC). 49% of the initial capital of 50 million Swiss francs were provided by SMH and the remaining 51% by Daimler-Ben
It is now part of a division of Daimler AG.
The main types are the Fortwo and the Forfour. The brand name SMART actually comes from Swatch, Mercedes or SM plus ART. The cars are marketed in 46 different countries in Asia, North America, South America, Africa, Australia, and Europe. The Fortwo, the most popular of the models had a production level surpassing 1.7 million units in 2015. In rural Manitoba where I live, there are very few Smart Cars but more are to be seen in Winnipeg the capital and a fair-sized city.
In 2007 Daimler began field-testing an electric version of the Smart Car. The company has kept refining the electric vehicle and a fourth generation Fortwo electric model was shown at the September 2016 Paris Motor Show. It was launched as the 2017 model. It has a 17.6 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack with 80 horsepower. Estimated range on a charge will be 99 miles. The appended video shows Smart Cars being made.
A robotic car is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without any human direction or input. So far in the US as of May 17 automated cars are permitted on public roads only if there is a human driver at the wheel at all times ready to take control according to Wikipedia. In order to detect their surroundings, robotic cars, use radar, laser light, GPS, and computer vision. The cars have advanced control system that analyze incoming data so as to identify clear navigation paths. as well as obstacles in their path.
The first precursors of technology for robotic cars was developed as far back as that 1020.s and 1930.s but the first really autonomous cars were developed in the 1980├Ęs at Carenegie Mellon University's Navlab,in 1984 and at a project of Mercedes-Benz and Bundeswehr University Munich, the Eureka Prometheus Project in 1987. In 1995 the Navlab 5 made the first robotic car coast to coast journey:. Of the 2,849 miles between Pittsburgh, PA and San Diego, CA, 2,797 miles were autonomous (98.2%), completed with an average speed of 63.8 miles per hour (102.3 km/h).[8][9][10][11] Since then, numerous major companies and research organizations have developed working prototype autonomous vehicles.
Once robotic cars become common it is expected there will be many fewer collisions, and less insurance costs. With more robotic cars it is also expected that traffic flow will be better. The cars will provide enhanced mobility for the disabled as well. Aside from the technological challenges of developing vehicles that are fully robotic, there are legal problems concerning liability for accidents. There will also be the need for regulations governing the cars which presumably should be made at the federal level but there may be political issues with that in the US and perhaps in some other countries as well. There are also concerns about hacking of the control mechanisms of the cars.
A third type of smart car is the intelligent car that embeds in it new technology that can help the operator of the car as well as those riding in it. Often the technology can help with navigation as the Mercedes in the appended video is able to drive for a short period without the operator controlling the steering wheel. Future cars will probably have an advanced cruise control system which you can just set and the car will function as a robotic car but you will still be able to control it should you wish. There will probably be more systems that over-ride driver errors such as ABS that keeps your brakes from locking, and avoid errors such as driving too fast into a curve, or not braking as you approach an obstacle.
As the appended video shows, even keys are becoming smarter with the fob and key for the Mercedes also able to sense the key fob as being near and unlock the door for you without ever having to take it from your pocket, and it can even open the windows and the sun roof for you. However, not everything works perfectly. The Mercedes slowed the car down to 45 miles per hour when it saw a speed sign indicating that was the speed limit. Unfortunately above the number the sign said "trucks". The driver remarks that it was a German car and did not understand English.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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