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DailyTech got to ride in an autonomous Chevy Tahoe at CES 2008
World is one step closer to Johnny Cab service

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."



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mass transit
By wushuktl on 4/7/2010 11:29:41 AM , Rating: 4
stuff like this is cool but doesn't it make more sense to build up mass transit infrastructure than make automated drivers of personal vehicles?




RE: mass transit
By Shig on 4/7/2010 11:37:36 AM , Rating: 2
This technology has an almost limitless amount of uses in modern society. It goes far beyond simple everyday use for the average commuter.

I agree that mass transit is the way to go for the bulk majority, but a self driving car would be useful in so many places and would be a welcome addition to all current infrastructure.

That is, if they can get it to work in between other human drivers.


RE: mass transit
By magneticfield on 4/7/2010 11:51:17 AM , Rating: 2
It would've been even better if this could make human drivers obsolete, lol.
Less car crashes created by complete idiots, more crashes caused by "cosmic rays", we'll have to weight-in the pros and cons.


RE: mass transit
By inighthawki on 4/7/2010 12:47:51 PM , Rating: 2
The problem is that you are replacing a bunch of bad drivers with a system that actually "pays attention" and knows what it's doing, but the trade off is that in extreme situation, a human might be able to act better for the given situation.

For example with the whole prius thing, if the car kept accelerating, would the car "know" to shift into neutral? Or would it just not know? In which case a human driver would certainly be better (assuming good drivers who knew what they are doing).

Not to mention weather conditions. Sure a car can automate driving a paved dry freeway and make some turns, but what happens when there's ice? Surely a computer wouldn't be able to properly handle a car in such conditions...


RE: mass transit
By Chemical Chris on 4/7/10, Rating: 0
RE: mass transit
By inighthawki on 4/7/2010 2:54:16 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Remember the Audi unintended acceleration from the late 70's/early 80's?

No actually, considering I wasn't alive back then lol. And I don't know about how you are defining the word "fix" but putting a car into neutral will stop it from accelerating...


RE: mass transit
By Chemical Chris on 4/7/2010 4:44:07 PM , Rating: 2
Putting the car in neutral (or depressing the clutch) will disengage the engine from the wheels, thus stopping any acceleration, and allowing the brakes to work effectively (the brakes still work if the car is accelerating, and will almost always overpower the engine). This is very, very basic safety stuff. Back in the good ol days of carburetors it could get stuck open (especially since all the gas/air/some dust goes past it, that sort of unintended acceleration is a much more real and frequent problem than with fuel injected cars). As such, its in pretty much every driver training book/course there is, and I consider it basic knowledge for any driver. And there was no one complaining back then.

The audi issue was purely driver error: the pedals were closer togethrr than most american cars, and people confused the pedals. One case even had the woman protest that her car 'rocketed forward' even as she was madly pressing the brake....of course, she was hitting the gas.

The Toyota issue is slightly different, as the pedal mechanism doesnt return to rest after being depressed. So, you remove your foot, and the car will accelerate *no more* than you were initially. But it does not present a huge safety risk, especially since the solution (if affected) is so simple.
So, IMHO, it doesnt present a clear and present threat to peoples lives; it still needs to be replaced/fixed, but its not a big deal.

Im not saying Toyota shouldn't take it seriously, Im just saying the 'damages' are primarily user error/lacking in the most basic driving skills.

ChemC


RE: mass transit
By inighthawki on 4/7/2010 6:00:16 PM , Rating: 2
I apologize, I initially misread your original post. I may not be an expert with cars but I do know the basics. You're right though, there is a lot of driver error, but that's not to say that an automated vehicle would always be better ;)


RE: mass transit
By Mitch101 on 4/7/2010 2:58:58 PM , Rating: 2
I would be happy enough if they could automate the turn signal on BMW's.


RE: mass transit
By therealnickdanger on 4/7/2010 2:41:23 PM , Rating: 2
I don't believe so. No matter how great mass transit is, it lacks the flexibility to get you exactly where you want to go in the time you want to get there. Some people would call that inefficient. A fully automated personal vehicle truly is the way of the future. Mass transit works well in the dense urban areas, but for anyone who lives or wants to go somewhere else, personal transportation is ideal.

I'm in the ITS field and every publication I read on the topic seems to point to the Minority Report method being the future.


'Researchers' have been doing this for years
By ZachDontScare on 4/7/2010 4:51:54 PM , Rating: 2
There's nothin particularly new here... just another incremental improvement. I had friends that were doing this in their engineering labs at a university 15 years ago. Not really news... more like a press release made into a story.




RE: 'Researchers' have been doing this for years
By abel2 on 4/8/2010 1:49:47 PM , Rating: 2
I for one cannot wait til the day that all vehicles are fully automated. Computers would be able to react more efficiently than drivers currently do and 'shockwave' type effects would be drastically reduced or eliminated. I'm referring here to the wave that travels down the interstate when an incident causes unnecessary braking and shuts down the 'flow' of the traffic.

Automated vehicles would make for closer proximity driving and a more uniform, efficient pattern.


By EJ257 on 4/19/2010 8:52:15 AM , Rating: 2
<rant>
Oh how I hate the stop waves. Especially on the route I commute on, the on/off ramps are extra short so people wait until the last possible moment to change lanes. Of course they have to brake very hard in the driving lane to slow down enough to merge with the traffic on the ramp.
</rant>


By Beenthere on 4/8/2010 11:01:51 AM , Rating: 1
Maybe this could help reduce false reports of unintended acceleration by Toyota owners or they could just take the bus?




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