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A staple of many science fiction books and movies for generations has been cars and other vehicles that can drive themselves. Being able to get into a vehicle and tell it where to drive is something that many drivers have long wanted.

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new computer program that brings the world one step closer to automated vehicles. The program is being eyed for a myriad of potential uses from unmanned military vehicles to safety features in cars consumers drive around the highways of the nation.

Dr. Wesley Snyder, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the university, and his co-workers have written a program that uses algorithms and a monocular vision solution to view traffic in multiple lanes and react accordingly.

Snyder said, "We develop computer vision programs, which allow a computer to understand what a video camera is looking at – whether it is a stop sign or a pedestrian. For example, this particular program is designed to allow a computer to keep a car within a lane on a highway, because we plan to use the program to drive a car. Although there are some vision systems out there already that can do lane finding, our program maintains an awareness of multiple lanes and traffic in those lanes."

Snyder and the other researchers will present a paper on the discovery at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Alaska this May. The paper is titled "concurrent visual multiple lane detection for autonomous vehicles." This is the sort of tech that teams in the DARPA Urban Challenge would use to get autonomous vehicles through the challenge.

Snyder also said, “This computer vision technology will also enable the development of new automobile safety features, including systems that can allow cars to stay in their lane, avoid traffic and gracefully react to emergency situations – such as those where a driver has fallen asleep at the wheel, had a heart attack or gone into diabetic shock. This can help protect not only the car that has the safety feature, but other drivers on the road as well. That’s a next generation of this research."

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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