The distinctive sound of The Beach Boys has been ringing in my ears since a recent concert I attended. Songs about cars and driving have long been among my favorites, probably because I’ve always enjoyed driving. I especially like my current winding and hilly route to work. I wonder, though, what it would be like in a self-driving car: I could enjoy the passing scene without a care, and it would feel more like a theme-park ride than a commute – but that’s a good thing.
Driverless cars are coming, and it is now only a matter of time, according to science writer Valerie C. Coffey. In “Vehicle Vision Puts the ‘Auto’ in ‘Automobile,’ ” beginning on page 44, Coffey writes that some of the big companies have launched vehicles with systems using photonics and radar technology “that do everything but make your lunch.”
I don’t need my car to prepare a sandwich, but driverless functions such as maintaining a constant distance from the car ahead and other aspects of collision avoidance do sound like good ideas. And, while I’m generally proud of my parallel-parking skills, I wouldn’t mind an assist now and then, especially if it helps move traffic along on a busy street.
I guess nobody sings about seamlessly putting the car into a tight spot on the first try, or your car keeping you out of trouble on a curve on a rainy night, let alone all the optics and photonics onboard to make those things happen, but they could. And maybe they should. Now that I think about it, what could be better for building public awareness of the importance of photonic technologies than a new song to the tune of The Beach Boys’ “409”? If you’re feeling creative, pen a couple of verses and send them my way.
Something else that could go a long way toward expanding the understanding of photonic technologies in the auto industry is a research report commissioned recently by EPIC, the European Photonics Industry Consortium. The report will survey laser systems used in welding, cutting and marking, machine vision, reflectometry, thermography, profilometry and shearography, as well as information-delivery technologies for screens, displays, GPS and lighting. Learn more about EPIC at www.epic-assoc.com. And watch for the announcement of an upcoming Photonics Media webinar with EPIC Director General Carlos Lee to share some of the research results.
Drive carefully, and enjoy the issue.