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UN promises self-driving intelligent cars

Only thing lacking is... standards

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The United Nations' ICT agency says that intelligent cars able to drive themselves could easily be built today - but they won't become available unless industry adopts global standards for the technologies underpinning them.

According to a statement issued yesterday by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU - "the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technology"):

Today’s communications capabilities give the potential for vehicles to foresee and avoid collisions, navigate the quickest route to their destination, make use of up-to-the-minute traffic reports, identify the nearest available parking slot, minimize their carbon emissions and provide multimedia communications.

In other words it would be a simple matter to build a car which you could leave parked at home until you wanted it. Leaving the pub having had a quick sharpener following a tiring day at the office, you would simply ding off a quick message from your multophone: the trusty machine would fire itself up, navigate across town avoiding the other traffic (even the vintage bangers driven manually by old-school types) and pull up at the kerb to collect you. You would stretch out comfortably and ride home while watching the telly and perhaps enjoying another cold one or two from the onboard fridge.

Should you feel a need to stop off en route - perhaps in some city-centre location where even the car's giant brain could find nowhere to park - you would simply jump out and the cunning autochauffeur would simply circle the block until you were ready to board once more.

Pulling in at home to notice, perhaps, that the car was low on fuel and needed its fridge restocking you would simply order it to take itself off to the nearest forecourt for replenishment - either by robots or employees there, whose actions you could easily monitor via the car's onboard vidcams on your multophone.

Truly a joyous future, then, with only a few trifling privacy issues, problems with roads choked by robocars circling in difficult parking districts etc.

What can bring this about?

UN standards, that's what. The ITU statement says that the organisation has allied itself with the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) to sort out the matter of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). According to the ITU:

The new Joint Task Force for ITS Communications will engineer better collaboration between these sectors and pool resources within ITU and ISO, linking existing work and avoiding duplication.

ITU and ISO both have a long history of work in ITS.

ISO Secretary-General Rob Steele apparently said (this is straight from the tinned quotes): "Most interestingly of all, is the urgent need to consider the interoperability of all of this technology not only in the vehicle, but in the wider infrastructure that is needed to support this revolution...

"Industry should not and will not wait while standards organizations fight amongst themselves, compete or try to decide who will develop that standard. They want to be listened to and have their needs for international standard solutions met." ®

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