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An autonomous car, also known as a driverless car, self-driving car or robot car, is an autonomous vehicle capable of fulfilling the human transportation capabilities of a traditional car. As an autonomous vehicle, it is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. Robotic cars exist mainly as prototypes and demonstration systems. Currently, the only self-driving vehicles that are commercially available are open-air shuttles for pedestrian zones that operate at 12.5 miles per hour (20.1 km/h).
Autonomous vehicles sense their surroundings with such techniques as radar, lidar, GPS, and computer vision. Advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage. Some autonomous vehicles update their maps based on sensory input, allowing the vehicles to keep track of their position even when conditions change or when they enter uncharted environments.
Some quasi-autonomous demonstration systems date back to the 1920s and the 1930s. Since the 1980s, when Mercedes-Benz and Bundeswehr University Munich built a driverless car through the EUREKA Prometheus Project, significant advances have been made in both technology and legislation relevant to autonomous cars. Numerous major companies and research organizations have developed working prototype autonomous vehicles, including Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Continental Automotive Systems, Autoliv Inc., Bosch, Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Vislab from University of Parma, Oxford University and Google. In 2010, four electric autonomous vans successfully drove 8000 miles from Italy to China. The vehicles were developed in a research project backed by European Union funding, by Vislab of the University of Parma, Italy. As of 2013, four U.S. states have passed laws permitting autonomous cars.
Many major automotive manufacturers, including General Motors, Ford, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Audi, Nissan, Toyota, BMW, and Volvo, are testing driverless car systems as of 2013. BMW has been testing driverless systems since around 2005, while in 2010, Audi sent a driverless Audi TTS to the top of Pike's Peak at close to race speeds. In 2011, GM created the EN-V (short for Electric Networked Vehicle), an autonomous electric urban vehicle. In 2012, Volkswagen began testing a "Temporary Auto Pilot" (TAP) system that will allow a car to drive itself at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour (130 km/h) on the highway. Ford has conducted extensive research into driverless systems and vehicular communication systems. In January 2013, Toyota demonstrated a partially self-driving car with numerous sensors and communication systems. The Google driverless car project maintains a test fleet of autonomous vehicles that has driven 300,000 miles (480,000 km) with no machine-caused accidents as of August 2012.
In film and television
KITT, the autonomous Pontiac Trans Am in the 1982 TV series Knight Rider, was sentient and autonomous.
The 1983 film Christine features a sentient, autonomous car as the title character.
In the 1989 film Batman, starring Michael Keaton, the Batmobile is shown to be able to drive itself to Batman's current location.
The 1990 film Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, features taxis called Johnny Cabs controlled by artificial intelligence in the car or the android drivers.
The 1993 film Demolition Man, starring Sylvester Stallone, set in 2032, features vehicles that can be self-driven or commanded to "Auto Mode" where a voice controlled computer operates the vehicle.
The 1994 film Timecop, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, set in 2004 and 1994, has cars that can either be self-driven or commanded to drive to specific locations such as "home".
Another Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, The 6th Day from 2000, features an autonomous car commanded by Michael Rapaport.
The 2002 film Minority Report, set in Washington, D.C. in 2054, features an extended chase sequence involving autonomous cars. The vehicle of protagonist John Anderton is transporting him when its systems are overridden by police in an attempt to bring him into custody.
The 2004 film I, Robot features autonomous vehicles driving on highways, allowing the car to travel safer at higher speeds than if manually controlled. The option to manually operate the vehicles is available.