Solar Storms Could Cause Mayhem With GPS-Reliant Autonomous Cars

Many automakers are promising to release fully autonomous vehicles within the next few years, and GM wants to put one with no driver controls in production in 2019, but these ambitious targets won’t be as easy to achieve as some would lead you to believe.

In a comprehensive report, Bloomberg has revealed that space meteorologists are concerned about how the driverless cars of tomorrow will deal with solar storms.

Such storms only occur occasionally but result in a massive spike in geomagnetic activity and radiation. For driverless vehicles which rely heavily on GPS, this could cause mayhem as the connection between a GPS system and the satellites could be cut off. In theory, disaster could follow on the roads.

According to Scott McIntosh, director of the high-altitude observatory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, using GPS heavily in programming a driverless car from Point A to Point B is an issue.

“There is a lot riding on this, from an actuarial point of view. All it is going to take is a couple of accidents for the industry to suffer.”

Fortunately, there are systems in place to avoid truly disastrous scenarios. In fact, a satellite currently sits 1 million miles from Earth and acts as a warning point for when solar storms are coming. It typically provides notice back to Earth 30 to 60 minutes before the storm hits the planet.

Senior director of the automotive unit at Nvidia Corp Danny Shapiro says driverless cars also have enough redundancy to pull over and stop in case something like a solar storm happens.

Finally, the sun’s energy flares such as solar storms largely follow an 11-year cycle. The last one occurred in 2014, so makers of fully autonomous cars have quite some time to figure out how to deal with such issues until our solar system’s star bursts out again.

more photos...
  • atomicbri

    I’m still not sold on this tech yet. Too many variables and too many issues that can come up currently from this. Plus I don’t want to be sitting in my autonomous car, programmed to take me to work, sitting and reading morning news on my tablet only to look up 30 mins later and realize the car has taken me to some warehouse where some hacker criminals have hacked my car and taken me there to hold me for ransom…. yeah I would rather drive my own vehicle still….

    • Bash

      Aren’t you over thinking this.

      • atomicbri

        Not at all. You have to account for all possibilities and this type tech will undoubtedly create new types of thieves, etc.

    • Craig

      Without question – that would be a possibility.

  • Bash

    Interesting read, Sci-Fi like read.

  • I WOULD HOPE THAT AN AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE WOULD BE PROGRAMED TO COME TO AN IMMEDIATE STOP IN SUCH AN EVENT.

    • Bash

      It should.

    • BlackPegasus

      The article states as much for those who’ve chose to read it.
      __________
      “Fortunately, there are systems in place to avoid truly disastrous scenarios. In fact, a satellite currently sits 1 million miles from Earth and acts as a warning point for when solar storms are coming. It typically provides notice back to Earth 30 to 60 minutes before the storm hits the planet.”

      • I READ THE ARTICLE HENCE MY COMMENT THAT THIS IS A NON-ISSUE IF CARS ARE PROGRAMMED TO STOP.

    • rickdeez

      An immediate stop off a steep cliff with the way some industry experts go about things. Watch for the next corner to be cut may be you. O.o

      • OK, IMMEDIATE STOP AND PUT ON THE PARKING BRAKE.

        • Vern Suesse

          That would only work if all cars are autonomous. Cars, trucks around you may not be and that could cause a terrible accident.

          • WELL THE ARTICLE IS ABOUT AUTONOMOUS GPS RELIANT CARS. SO IF THEY STOPPED DEAD IN THEIR TRACKS AS OPPOSED TO LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO PARK LIKE A TESLA, IT WOULDN’T BE ANY MORE DANGEROUS THAN A NORMAL CAR BLOCKING TRAFFIC. INCONVENIENT BUT NOT LIFE THREATENING.
            I’M BY NO MEANS ADVOCATING AUTONOMOUS CARS JUST REACTING TO THE ARTICLE.

BMW Driver Fights Off Attackers By Hitting Them With His Car

The driver of the 3-Series was allegedly the one under attack and responded by using his car as a weapon.

A 2001 Lamborghini Diablo For $80,000? What’s The Catch?

It looks like the real thing, but it’s not, though its makers claim it’s indistinguishable from an actual Diablo.

Trump Tariffs Could Impact Citroen, Peugeot Or DS Brands’ Return To The U.S.

PSA Group wants to return to the United States by 2026.

U Spy Camouflaged BMW 3-Series Sedan And SUV Prototypes In Spain

These two prototypes were spotted undergoing warm weather tests in southern Spain.

Ford Recalls Half A Million Fusion And Escape Vehicles Over Transmission Issue

Both cars have an increased rollaway risk due to the bushing that attaches the shifter cable to the transmission.

Is This The Bugatti Divo That’s Testing At The Nurburgring?

The limited production hypercar will come with a number of upgrades and cost $6 million, excluding tax.

New Brabham BT62 Devours The Goodwood Hill Climb, Gives Us An Eargasm

Brabham’s track-only supercar wore the same livery as the F1 racer driven by Niki Lauda in 1978.

Hyundai Kona Iron Man Edition Is All Sorts Of Wrong

Suddenly, we’re rooting for Thanos.

Geely Announces First Self-Developed Modular Architecture, Will Debut On SX11 Crossover

The Geely SX11 will be launched later this year with a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine.

Porsche Panamera GTS And 718 Cayman T Could Be Coming Next Year

The 718 Cayman T will likely draw inspiration from the 911 T.