DES MOINES, Iowa - It might just make that first parallel parking job a breeze for students at Meredith Middle School and Herbert Hoover High School who got to take a look inside the University of Iowa's driverless research vehicle Wednesday.
The UI's semi-automated driverless vehicle came to Des Moines schools Wednesday to promote STEM careers among students, as well as spread awareness about safer driving. The vehicle, developed by Volvo, is used by the UI for crash study research and as a tool to advocate for safer roads in the state. Though it can't fully drive itself, the technology in the vehicle can slam the brakes, keep you in your lane on the highway, and even parallel park without any help.
"The reason for this automation is that we're really bad drivers," said UI researcher Dan McGeehee. "32,000 people a year die on our roads, we know 95% of those crashes are driver error. So this technology can step in, and protect those drivers."
The UI's research vehicle is part of a larger campaign from MyCarDoesWhat.org that's aimed at teaching people about the automated technologies in their cars and how to use them. The website doesn't promote specific car companies, but it does detail to consumers what kinds of automated technologies are available, and how they can save lives and make driving safer.
Although Wednesday marks "Back to the Future Day," Marty McFly wouldn't find any hovering cars in today's 2015. Regardless, McGeehee says he thinks McFly would be pretty astounded by what cars nowadays can do.
"The technologies that are in this car are actually going to be more helpful for the masses, I think," he said. "I think that's really the key, is that in the next few years, cars will have automatic braking systems, and so forth, that will really protect drivers from the most common types of crashes. So, Back to the Future is way cool, but these technologies are here now."
McGeehee says within the next decade, these automated technologies demonstrated today will come standard in all vehicles. Fully driverless cars should be present on our roads by that time, as well.