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Magnets Drawing Us Into The Future

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On: Sat, Mar 15, 2014 at 9:15AM | By: Karen Cook

Magnets Drawing Us Into The Future

Self-driving automobiles are inevitable. Eventually we will have the technology and capability to allow our cars to take us where we want to go without much input from the passengers inside. Swedish researchers may have paved the way for Volvo and other autonomous car manufacturers to do this sooner rather than later.

It’s an old discovery put to a modern use. The whole idea rests on magnets. The researchers found that magnets allow for more “reliable and accurate positioning” of vehicles on the roadways. It’s actually very simple. Magnets are embedded in the road and in the vehicle which create a magnetic “railway” and decreases positional inaccuracy to less than four inches. This is a significant improvement over GPS or cameras. Magnets also have another benefit over traditional self-driving technology such as those mentioned; they are not affected by physical obstacles, such as tunnels or inclement weather—such as fog or rain—which can adversely affect GPS or cameras.

Changes would obviously have to be made to our roads to make this possible. Ferrite magnets must be embedded 7.9 inches below the surface at regular intervals in order to be effective. This is a relatively small change to the current structure of the roads and would likely be paid for by manufacturers who want to use the technology in their products. A bonus to using this method is that the lanes can be made narrower which will provide more space and fewer traffic jams without sacrificing safety.

This technology will not replace the existing hardware currently being tested in autonomous vehicles but it does provide additional safety and guidance to any vehicle. This means that makers like Ford and Nissan (both of whom are working on self-driving vehicles) could incorporate magnets in whatever cars they are planning to build, even if they are not driving themselves. The magnets can be used with the sensors that alert a driver when he is drifting out of his lane.

Sometimes the answers to modern questions can be found in the past. This is a cost-efficient, very effective, totally green use of a discovery which has been around for ages and could be the very thing to transport us into the future.


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