The Autonomous Audi TTS Pikes Peak vehicle -- co-developed by Audi, Volkswagen, and Stanford University -- autonomously completed the 12.42-mile Pikes Peak circuit in 27 minutes in 2010. (Source: Audi AG)
Chuck, the thing that strikes me is the number of sensors. How many sensors does the current technology, the human driver, use? Not many. I really think these researchers are barking up the wrong tree. They probably only need an accelerometer and a stereo vision systems like the Kinect. Perhaps GPS would be useful as well.
I missed this at CES but I was only at the show for a day.
As a Californian, I'm NOT looking forward sharing the road with self-driving cars. Our Governor signed a bill authorizing driverless vehicles in 2013. Maybe I'm old-fashioned about it but I think human skills are superior to sensors.
I can't really speak to the issue of whether they could do this with stereo vision and Kinect. But I can vouch for the fact that they do have a lot of sensors on these vehicles. To know where they are, the vehicles combine GPS data with "low-G" accelerometers and gyroscopes.Then they have to filter that data through dual- and quad-core processors. To avoid obstacles, they use infrared cameras and, in some cases, LIDAR systems containing as many as 64 separate lasers to create a "point cloud" of obstacles ahead. I suspect that as they get better at this, we may see the number of sensors drop, but right now they still feel they need a lot of sensing capability to handle this chore.
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I think that if you really analyzed it, you'd find that the human body has a large number of sensors all attached to a very sophisticated "inference engine". Subtle changes to the pressure on your hands tell you a lot about how hard the wheel is being turned. The part of your body in contact with your seat back, in conjunction with your inner ear, senses acceleration, peripheral vision picks up rapid movement just outside your field of vision, your eyes are constantly adjusting to varying light conditions and so on. Replicating the human driving experience through sensors hooked to a computer is seriously complicated business.
I agree with Nadine, that the idea of cars driving themselves entirely--sophisticated sensors or not--is a bit daunting. I like the idea of a car being able to park itself in a lot and perhaps come back and pick me up, but driving on its own I'm not quite comfortable with. Maybe it would be OK as long as someone was always in the car to override any error--but wouldn't a self-driving car make a driver lazy? And I don't know about anyone else, but I love driving...there is something soothing about it, especially long drives with good music. I have used long drives as therapy! Have we become so preoccupied by other things that we can't enjoy or accomplish this simple act?
A phrase I hear all to often where I work is "All's you gotta do". It's what people say when they think something is going to be a simple task. It's usually said by people that will NOT be implementing the task. After all, if people can do it (drive a car, and some of them quite challenged in the brain-power category), then surely machines can do it if we add enough sensors and processors. Yeah, right. And that's just the technical side (this is an autonomous, hopefully intelligent, safety critical Robot we are talking about).
Wet hardware (humans) is truly an amazing instrument. Capable of taking far more information than we are aware, while filling in the blanks for missing/conflicting/incomplete info, and adapting to unforeseen circumstances. This is truly a deceptively simple task.
The other side is legal. Will Toyota or Audi accept the legal liability for auto accidents that occur when "self-driving"? In reality, they must since it's their "brains" behind the wheel. But, when I have to buy auto insurance, how is my provider going to bill me? Or will they bill the auto manufactures? Or will the government do what it seems to be best at, which is grant immunity to big business leaving us to fend for ourselves against 2 ton death machines designed to be as cheap as possible.
When I first saw the article title, the first thing that came to my mind was that Toyota was trying to re-brand its issue with unintended acceleration (really, it wasn't unintended ...)
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