|Credit: John Cairns|
Think you need a chauffeur to get around in style? Think again. New robotic technology is making it possible for drivers to get where they’re going without having to do all that pesky steering themselves.
Engineers at the University of Oxford recently demonstrated the latest in automated technology using a Nissan Leaf electric car. The navigation system in this self-driving car uses built-in cameras and lasers linked to a computer in the trunk and is controlled by an iPad on the dashboard.
When the system recognizes a familiar route, the iPad flashes a prompt for the driver to activate ‘auto drive.’ From there, the system takes over navigation but can be halted at any time with a tap on the brake pedal.
And though automated technology in vehicles is nothing new- there are many cars on the market that can park themselves and react to changing road conditions- researchers believe that this “auto drive” system could be the next big thing for the car industry.
“Instead of imagining some cars driving themselves all of the time we should imagine a time when all cars can drive themselves some of the time,” said Paul Newman of Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science. “The sort of very low cost, low footprint autonomy we are developing is what’s needed for everyday use.”
Researchers can thank recent advancements in 3D laser mapping for the affordability of the automated system, Newman said. Unlike GPS navigation systems, this robotic technology relies on the rapid upload of detailed images of the car’s immediate surroundings.
“Because our cities don’t change very quickly, robotic vehicles will know and look out for familiar structures as they pass by so that they can ask a human driver, ‘I know this route, do you want me to drive?’ and the driver can choose to let the technology take over,” said Newman.
Researchers believe automated technology has the ability to make the driving experience safer, more efficient, and even more enjoyable for commuters.