independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Researching on the road to an affordable self-driving car

THE REALITY of an affordable self-driving car for the masses is a step closer claim researchers after developing a laser guided vehicle.

he breakthrough by Oxford University utilises relatively cheap technology to memorise regular journeys like the commute or the school run.

The engineers and researchers behind the project are aiming to produce a low-cost system within a decade.

Other companies, such as Google, have also been testing driverless vehicle technology but their systems are much more complicated and expensive.

The Oxford RobotCar UK, is now hoping to test the technology on the road said Prof Paul Newman from the university's department of engineering science.

"We're working with the Department of Transport to get some miles on the road in the UK," said Prof Newman.

At the moment, the complete system costs around £5,000 – but Prof Newman believes that future models will bring the price of the technology down to as low as £100.

The system works by producing a 3D image of the route using lasers attached to the front and a camera mounted on the roof.

The sensors map the route but also pick up unfamiliar objects such as pedestrians.

Autonomous technology is being tested by several car manufacturers and technology companies around the world.

Simple self-driving tasks, such as cars that can park themselves, are already in use across the industry.

The aim is to produce a fully-autonomous vehicle that is safe and affordable.

Google has been testing its car for several years, with the company boasting of 300,000 computer-driven miles without an accident.

While at an earlier stage of development, Oxford University's car has significant key differences to Google's offering and much cheaper, Prof Newman said.

He added: "Our approach is made possible because of advances in 3D laser mapping that enable an affordable car-based robotic system to rapidly build up a detailed picture of its 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?'"

Prof Newman applauded Google's efforts in innovating in the space – but was buoyant about the role British expertise could have in the industry.

"This is all UK intellectual property, getting into the [driverless car] race.

"I would be astounded if we don't see this kind of technology in cars within 15 years.”

Telegraph.co.uk

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