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"Intelligent" self-driving road vehicles enter widespread usage somewhere in the world by the end of 2015.
To qualify for the purposes of this claim, a self-driving vehicle must satisfy the following criteria:
- It must be reliably able to follow a non-straight road at a speed of at least 50 mph (80.5 kph) without input from a human driver. Furthermore, this autonomous operation must be legal in the state/country in which the vehicle resides.
- It must have a passenger/cargo capacity of at least 300 kg.
- It must be practically and legally able to travel on roads commonly used by cars and trucks and to mingle with normal road traffic. However, it need not operate autonomously while doing this. Thus, a car which requires an active human driver under most conditions, but can operate autonomously on a special highway or in a special lane, may qualify for the purposes of the claim.
- While driving autonomously, the vehicle may use any sort of landmarks or beacons to navigate. However, it may not be towed, pushed, pulled, or physically constrained to follow the desired path. Thus, a vehicle towed or carried by another vehicle or a conveyor belt, or running on rail track, etc., does not qualify.
Autonomous retrofits of previously manufactured non-autonomous vehicles may qualify for this claim.
From Foresight Exchange
In the late 1990's a less ambitious research and engineering program, PROMETHEUS aimed at automatic controls in cars for greater safety was undertaking in the UK. Some of the capabilities worked on included:
- Car-following using short range radar to automatically maintain a safe distance from the car in front.
- Traffic-light radio-link so that the lorry would know the cycle of the lights, and save fuel by controlling speed to meet lights as they change.
- Driver 'wake-up' monitoring of the driver's head position, with an audible alarm to slow the truck and wake a driver who was nodding off.