GM Files Patent That Adds Autonomous Driving Capabilities to Any Car
Making autonomous cars isn't cheap by any means. Some automakers are partnering with one another, while others are embracing the hands-free future on their own. Another route sees major automakers team with tech companies so they don't have to pour millions into developing all of the necessary components on their own. But that's still costly, and having to rely on someone else for parts isn't ideal. General Motors has thought about all of the available avenues and introduced a new patent to simplify things.
What Are the Necessary Parts?
According to GM Inside News, General Motors has filed a patent that can practically turn any regular vehicle into an autonomous one. That includes older models, too. The patent, as the outlet claims, is for a "system for retrofitting vehicle automation." GM believes the solution to making any vehicle autonomous involves motors in the steering column and both the brake and accelerator pedal, along with a comprehensive suite of sensors.
In GM's diagram, the automaker reveals that a vehicle would require four interfaces – a user interface, steering interface, brake interface, and throttle interface – a sensor suite on top of the vehicle, a central computer in the back of the car, and a radar unit at the front. It sounds complicated, but no one said making an autonomous vehicle was easy.
All of the components would paint a clear picture for the vehicle to get around on its own. While the sensors and the cameras capture and see what's going on, the interfaces are in place to take a necessary action. The patent also includes information on LiDAR, sonar, and photodetectors.
What Other Futuristic Ideas Are in the Patent?
Unlike modern semi-autonomous vehicles on the road that have redundancies for wiring, sensors, and software, GM's patent describes having a redundancy for larger items like the braking system. In addition to having a normal hydraulic master cylinder, a second unit would be in place and have its own dedicated brake lines. The second master cylinder would be able to act on its own and provide additional support if the system finds the driver to be lacking gusto.
If and when a driver wants to regain control of the car, GM envisions multiple ways for that to happen. Sensors would detect when the driver is attempting to steer the car through mechanical, optical, electrical, or acoustic sensors. The patent even accounts for an emergency stop button that would immediately give control back to the human driver.
Connectivity and autonomous cars go well together, so GM includes the ability to monitor the vehicle's sensors or even interact with the car – like telling it to pick you up in a specific location – through your smartphone. That sounds a lot like Tesla's "Summon" feature.
Obviously, this is just a patent, but the thinking behind the tech shows promise. No one knows its vehicles better than an automaker, so it only makes sense for a carmaker to develop its own tech. While developing the system would eventually cost more up front, it could be a cheaper solution in the long run, as GM's brands would all be able to share the system, meaning everything from the Cruze to the Silverado could come with it. It also gives consumers the ability to possibly retrofit the autonomous system onto an older vehicle.
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