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Autonomous Cars: Within a Decade?

If you look at the evolution of the automobile, you'll notice that there have never been any radical changes. Will we see any in the near future? Director of Advanced Mobility Research at Art Center College of Design Geoff Wardle certainly hopes so.

"If we are going to continue to use automobiles in any big way, we have to be much more selective as end users in making sure we use the right vehicle for the right job," he says. This means they need to be more energy efficient, take up less space and... autonomous. That is, the cars should virtually drive themselves. Sound like a crazy idea? You're not alone. "If cars can be engineered to drive themselves reliably without crashing into each other, then you can make the cars a lot lighter still because you don’t have to engineer them to be light tanks." When could this happen? Wardle predicts sometime within the next decade. We're starting to the see the beginnings of it already.

As part of this series, every Wednesday until April 7, we will release new interviews with people who are changing the way we get from here to there, from entrepreneurs to policy makers. So far, we've featured interviews with Richard Schaden, Aeronautical engineer and founder of Beyond The Edge; Mitchell Joachim, founder of Terreform ONE; Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogata; Felix Kramer, founder of the non-profit, California Cars Initiative; famous aerospace engineer Burt Rutan; director of MIT Media Lab's Smart Cities Group Bill Mitchell; and PhD at MIT Media Lab, Ryan Chin. The schedule for the following weeks is as follows:

· March 24: Nathan Lewis, Professor of Chemistry, at the California Institute of Technology.

· March 31: Joseph Sussman—Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT. Specializing in "Complex, Large-Scale, Interconnected, Open, Sociotechnical" strategic transportation systems.

· March 31: Douglas Malewicki, Aerospace engineer and inventor of the SkyTran, a Personal Rapid Transit system that uses magnetic levitation tracks to achieve the equivalent of over 200 miles per gallon fuel economy at 100 miles per hour or faster.

· April 7: Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, which promotes the formation of space tourism and other major milestones and the co-Founder of Space Adventures. 

· April 7: Michael Schrage-- Research fellow with the Sloan School of Management's Center for Digital Business and a visiting fellow at Imperial College's London 'Innovation and Entrepreneurship' program.

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