Image Credits: Thinkstock
For many years scientists, engineers and technology enthusiasts have deliberated about the viability of autonomous vehicles, which are often confined to sci-fi movies.
However, recent developments in sensors, computer vision, artificial intelligence, automation and computer processing power, means scientists and engineers are now closer than ever to making this technology a reality.
Carnegie Mellon University Driver-less Car
In collaboration with the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Transportation, DARPA and General Motors, the CMU’s autonomous vehicle is a result of decades of research and development by scientists and engineers.
Following the huge success seen by the CMU team, Bill Shuster Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, requested the driver-less vehicle be brought to Washington, D.C. where he and various members of congress participated in a 33-mile drive between a Pittsburgh suburb and the city’s airport.
The Carnegie Mellon car resembles any other Cadillac SRX however, with built in sensors, cameras and computers, this vehicle is at the cutting edge of autonomous vehicle technology.
The demonstration was aimed at showing how the autonomous technology can be incorporated into vehicles that are currently on the market.
This technology represents the natural progression of automation and will have a major positive impact on society since transportation is a hub of modern economies.
Co-director of the General Motors-Carnegie Mellon Autonomous Driving Collaborative Research Lab
The work done by the CMU team underlines the importance of sensors technology, software, wireless communications and the network integration needed to guarantee the road safety of autonomous vehicles.
The CMU car owes its autonomous ability to a top-of-the-line radar system, advanced camera technology, sensors and various other technologies all built into the body of the vehicle. The car is capable of controlling the steering, regulating the speed and braking, and monitoring obstacles in the road, including other vehicles and pedestrians.
The camera system in the car is setup to visually detect traffic signals and respond in accordance with road safety. The researchers at CMU have also included technology which allows the car to communicate wirelessly with traffic signals around any given area. This will allow the car to accurately determine the status of traffic signals further down the road.
Google's Driver-less Car
Google’s self-driving car is another project which has seen significant developments in autonomous vehicle technology.
Image Credit: Google Press Images - Eric, Larry and Sergey in a self-driving car on January 20, 2011
The car is fitted with four radar systems located in strategic positions allowing it to determine its speed in relation to other vehicles on the road.
The car also has orientation sensors which allow it to track its motion and balance.
Wheel hub sensors allow the car to calculate the number of rotations further helping it determine its location.
A large laser sensor mounted on top of the vehicle allows the car perform accurate, 360 degree measurements at a rate of 3.5 measurements per second. The information from the cars systems are then collated and analyzed by the on-board computer and mapped in Google’s specifically designed custom software.
The software allows the car to build a real time virtual map of the environment around it. This software means the car can react to pedestrians, road signals, other vehicles as wells as anticipating the actions of moving objects. The car is able to use the data collected to safely navigate all the potential scenarios a driver may encounter on the road.
Video Courtesy of Google
The developments in driver-less technology are very significant for the future safety of our roads. Autonomous vehicles could offer the next natural progression in how we navigate our journeys, and organizations like Google and CMU may soon offer a viable solution for an increasingly congested global road network.
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