At the SAE World Congress in 2012, I attended Anthony Levandowski's keynote speech on the Google Self Driving Car project. Mr. Levandowski was the business lead of the project which had outfitted a Prius with GPS, real-time positioning along with a million various sensors for traffic, pedestrians and intersections. They were already to the point where Mr. Levandowski was taking (not driving) the Self Driving Car back and forth to work every day. It astonished me to realize that this wasn't just a project that Google was working on, but the technology was already in use! As of today, these vehicles are licensed in Nevada, Florida, and California. Let's first look at how we got this far and just exactly how far along we really are with this technology.
The early days of autonomous driving started with traction control; the ability to redirect torque from a slipping wheel with no traction to another with traction available. Although Ferdinand Porsche used a mechanical limited slip differential in his 1932 Grand Prix Racing car, it wass't until 1971 that Buick developed "MaxTrac," an electronic system that used a computer to electronically send power from one slipping wheel to another with better traction available.