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.