PETERSBORO, Cache County &8212; You may soon be able to put your car on autopilot thanks to a Cache Valley company that's teamed up with Ford. Using motion sensors and GPS, they've created Utah's own driverless car.
In the quiet, very rural town of Petersboro, a cutting-edge technology is being carefully refined. You might say Autonomous Solutions, Inc. (ASI), is developing the answer to distracted driving by taking the wheel out of your hands.
"It's exciting that the technology is maturing and coming down in cost so that it is practical to in automotive," said Mel Torrie, CEO and founder of ASI.
At times, Torrie seems like a kid in his workshop, as his company is constantly developing automated technologies. "It's the most exciting thing you can imagine to be working on, in my opinion," he said.
One of ASI's products is a bomb-inspecting robot that uses an Xbox Kinect video game sensor to see and pick up objects without the help of a human or remote control. It's the same concept behind components inside their new driverless Ford Fusion. With the help of a GPS unit, sensors in the car help it to find its own path.
Torrie said the car works great on a clear day, but the challenge in the future will be making sure it works in tough weather, or when animals cross the road — all those unpredictable obstacles.
"It's really the sensors are the challenge right now, the cost of them and the resolution of those sensors," Torrie said. "But as that comes, we're definitely gonna see that reality."
Several automated dump trucks are already being shipped out to a mining operation in South Africa. Torrie said it may not be too far off before consumers get a hold of the technology too.
"When will we get to the point where you're not doing anything and you can read a book? I think you're in the five- to seven-year range," Torrie said.
As far as cost goes, Torrie said the automated car would cost around $100,000 right now. But he believes that cost will drop significantly in the next few years.