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時間:2022-08-15 來源:本站 點擊:258次

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How driverless cars will change our world

It's a late night in the Metro area of Phoenix, Arizona. Under the artificial glare of street lamps, a car can be seen slowly approaching. Active sensors on the vehicle radiate a low hum. A green and blue 'W' glows from the windscreen, giving off just enough light to see inside – to a completely empty driver seat.


The wheel navigates the curb steadily, parking as an arrival notification pings on the phone of the person waiting for it. When they open the door to climb inside, a voice greets them over the vehicle's sound system. "Good evening, this car is all yours – with no one upfront," it says.


This is a Waymo One robotaxi, hailed just 10 minutes ago using an app. The open use of this service to the public, slowly expanding across the US, is one of the many developments signalling that driverless technology is truly becoming a part of our lives.

这是一辆Waymo One自动驾驶出租车,10分钟前刚刚用一款应用程序叫到了车。在美国各地,这项服务正在向公众缓慢开放,这是诸多进展之一,表明无人驾驶技术正在真正成为我们生活的一部分。

The promise of driverless technology has long been enticing. It has the potential to transform our experience of commuting and long journeys, take people out of high-risk working environments and streamline our industries. It's key to helping us build the cities of the future, where our reliance and relationship with cars are redefined – lowering carbon emissions and paving the way for more sustainable ways of living. And it could make our travel safer. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 1.3 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. "We want safer roads and less fatalities. Automation ultimately could provide that," says Camilla Fowler, head of automated transport for the UK's Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).

无人驾驶技术的前景一直很诱人。它有可能改变我们通勤和长途旅行的体验,让人们远离高风险的工作环境,并让各行业更高程度的发展和配合。它还是我们建设未来城市的关键。在未来,我们对汽车的依赖以及与汽车的关系将重新被定义——降低碳排放,为更可持续的生活方式铺平道路;我们的旅行也更安全。世界卫生组织估计,每年有130多万人死于道路交通事故。“我们希望道路更安全,死亡人数更少。英国交通研究实验室(Transport Research Laboratory)自动化运输主管卡米拉·福勒(Camilla Fowler)表示。

But in order for driverless technology to become mainstream, much still needs to change.


"Driverless vehicles should be a very calm and serene way of getting from A to B. But not every human driver around it will be behaving in that way," says David Hynd, chief scientist for safety and investigations at TRL. "It's got to be able to cope with human drivers speeding, for instance, or breaking the rules of the road."

“无人驾驶汽车应该是一种非常冷静的交通工具,但并不是路上所有人类司机都会这样做,”交通研究实验室安全与调查首席科学家戴维·海恩德(David Hynd)说。“它必须能够应对人类司机各种违反交通规则的行为,例如超速驾驶。”

And that's not the only challenge. There's regulation, rethinking the highway code, public perception, improving the infrastructure of our streets, towns, cities, and the big question of ultimate liability for road accidents. "The whole insurance industry is looking into how they're going to deal with that change from a person being responsible and in charge to the vehicle doing that," says Richard Jinks, vice president of commercial at Oxfordshire-based driverless vehicle software company Oxbotica, which has been testing its technology in cars and delivery vehicles at several locations across the UK and Europe.

这并不是唯一的挑战。制定规则,重新审定高速公路法规,公众意见,改善街道、城镇和城市的基础设施等等都是问题。认定道路事故的最终责任则是更大的问题。“从个人负责到车辆负责,如何应对这种转变,是整个保险行业都在研究的问题。”位于牛津郡的无人驾驶汽车软件公司Oxbotica的商业副总裁理查德·金克斯(Richard Jinks)表示。该公司一直在英国和欧洲多个地区的汽车和配送车辆上测试无人驾驶技术。

The ultimate vision experts are working towards is of completely driverless vehicles, both within industry, wider transport networks, and personal-use cars, that can be deployed and used anywhere and everywhere around the world.


But with all these hurdles in place, what exactly does the next 10 years have in store for autonomous vehicles?


Two years from now


The biggest hurdle for those in the driverless technology industry is how to get the cars to operate safely and effectively in complex and unpredictable human environments. Cracking this part of the puzzle will be the major focus of the next two years.


At the Mcity Test Facility at the University of Michigan, experts are addressing this. The world's first purpose-built testing ground for autonomous vehicles, it's a mini-town of sorts, made up of 16 acres of road and traffic infrastructure. It includes traffic signals and signs, underpasses, building facades, tree cover, home and garage exterior for testing delivery and ride-hailing, and different terrains such as road, pedestrian walkways, railway tracks, and road-markings which the vehicles must navigate. It's here that experts test scenarios that even the most experienced of drivers may be pressed to handle, from children playing in the street to two cars trying to merge on a junction at the same time.

在密歇根大学(University of Michigan)的Mcity测试中心,专家们正在解决这个问题。这是世界上第一个专门为自动驾驶汽车建造的试验场。它是一个小型仿真城镇,由16英亩的道路和交通基础设施组成,包括交通信号和标志、地下通道、地上建筑物、树木、用于测试送货和叫车服务的住宅,以及不同的地形,如道路、人行道、铁路轨道和各种可能的路况。在这里,专家们测试了一些场景,即使是最有经验的司机也可能会面临压力,比如,孩子在街上玩耍,以及两辆车试图同时并道。

"In order to test driverless technology like this, it depends on hundreds of different variables in any given situation," explains Necmiye Ozay, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Michigan. Her solution is to create a group of varied thinkers.

密歇根大学电子与计算机工程副教授尼科米也·欧泽(Necmiye Ozay)解释说,“测试这样的无人驾驶技术,关键在于任何特定情况下数百个不同的变量。”她的解决办法是建立一个由多元思考者组成的团队。

"We're trying to bring people from different parts of the university – not only engineers, but we have people from across disciplines such as psychology, more human-machine-interaction type people, because there are lots of angles to this problem we are trying to solve when it comes to safety," says Ozay. In the facility, Ozay and her team can test different traffic scenarios, as well as explore how autonomous vehicles communicate with each other yet keep vehicle and personal data secure from hackers.

“我们试图将来自不同地区的人聚集在一起, 不仅有大学的工程师,还有其他学科的学者,比如心理学家,更倾向人机交流的专家,因为我们正在努力解决安全问题时,需要多角度思考和推进 ,”欧泽说。在测试中心,欧泽和她的团队不但要测试不同的交通场景,还必须设计自动驾驶汽车之间的相互通信,甚至保护车辆和个人数据不受黑客攻击。

That self-driving taxis are already on the roads in Phoenix, Arizona, is due to a prolonged testing process like the one Ozay's team is conducting. Currently only available as a test service to the public in small defined areas, in the next two years there are plans to release the taxis on a greater and wider scale.


Much of the driverless technology already in use exists in industrial settings like mines, warehouses, and ports, but Hynd believes in the next two years we can expect to see this extended to "last mile delivery". This means the final part of a journey for goods and services – the point at which they are delivered to the consumer. For example, autonomous HGV trucks on motorways or even delivery vehicles for products and groceries.


Five years from now


While Apple says it is aiming to launch fully self-driving electric cars four years from now, industry experts are more cautious about what the near-future holds.


In the next five years most driverless technology will remain behind the scenes. TRL is investigating the potential for driverless HGVs on motorways, including the idea of platooning vehicles. Platoons are a group of semi-autonomous vehicles that drive a close distance between each other, stopping other vehicles from separating them. By driving closer together, vehicles in a platoon can be more fuel efficient by taking advantage of the slipstream of the truck in front while also helping to reduce congestion as the lorries take up less overall space on the road. Also in this space is Plus, the first self-driving truck manufacturer, whose European pilots commenced this year after a successful trial on Wufengshan highway in China's Yangtze Delta economic centre.


Away from these industries, Ozay further predicts that "we will possibly see lighter robotic vehicles that can potentially use sidewalks and bike paths with limited speeds – for delivering things such as food and groceries."


When it comes to public transport, Oxbotica is also working with German-based vehicle systems specialist ZF over the next five years to make the driverless shuttle a true mainstay for European cities, operating on roads, as well as at airports, much in the same way buses do now. "The shuttles in airports we see today on rails won't need those rails in five years from now. This means driverless shuttles have the potential to transport you from the car park to the airport, then straight through to your gate and the plane," Jinks explains.


For users, this could mean more reliable and cost-efficient transport systems. "Interlinking autonomous transport systems to bring a public transport system that is as efficient as you jumping in your own car and driving it yourself has got to be the answer to congestion in the future," adds Jinks.


Seven years from now


All experts agree that the next seven years will depend on the successes and failures of initial deployments, and how safety and public trust evolves accordingly. However, most hope that city redesigns will enable more adoption of the technology and help move us into modern, and more efficient ways of living. "If you live in a dense, urban area, the hope is that you'd be able to rely on mobility as a service. You could dial up the car, it would arrive in two minutes, and you make your journey. You wouldn't need to have those vast rows of parked cars in your street, which makes the street more navigable for the automated vehicle," says Hynd.


Without parked cars lining the street, roads could be narrower, making way for more green spaces. But while proponents of self-driving vehicles insist they will make our roads safer, there are some who feel pedestrians and autonomous vehicles simply can't mix. It could mean that our cities and the way we use them may need to be reimagined.


Some of this thinking is already taking place. In 2018, IKEA developed a concept autonomous vehicle that can double up as meeting rooms, hotels, and stores. The impact this type of innovation would have is reduced requirement for travel in the first place, offering instead interchangeable, on-demand environments as and when we need them. Our needs could be met right where we are.


10 years from now


Despite all the developments and innovations the next decade is likely to hold, some experts still feel we might be a way off from full deployment of driverless vehicles. By 2031, "full-self driving – human-level or above, in all possible conditions, where you can put kids by themselves in the car to send them to arbitrary locations without worrying – is not something I expect to see," says Ozay.

尽管未来10年可能会有各种发展和创新,但一些专家仍然认为,全面部署无人驾驶汽车可能时间还不足。到2031年,“全自动驾驶——意思是在任何变换的情况下自动驾驶都能达到人类或更高水平,你可以把孩子自己放在车里,把他们送到任意地点,而不用担心——我估计这还无法实现,” 欧泽说。

Hynd agrees that full automation is unlikely on this timescale. "With anything transport infrastructure, anything that society uses, so many other things need to come into play. And I don't just mean regulation," he says. Safety will be a major hurdle, especially for countries slower to adopt the change because of the huge costs involved. Infrastructure will also dictate how fast and effectively this technology can roll out, and public perception and willingness to use autonomous vehicles will need to increase according to Hynd.


But not everyone agrees. Jinks is confident that we'll see autonomous vehicles on the roads at the same time as human-driven vehicles in 10 years from now. In this vein, you may very well be stepping onto a driverless shuttle at the airport, then into a self-driving taxi to take you to your final destination.


Owning a driverless car in the next 10 years is less likely – it'll still be too expensive for most people, according to Hynd. But the promise of driverless technology is about unchaining us from our reliance on cars, and how that can transform the use of our time and our environment.


Much in the same way that electric charging stations have slowly entered car parks, side streets, and service stations, so too will autonomous vehicles eventually make their way into our everyday worlds. Years from now, we may well be wondering how we ever lived without them.


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