MIT Creates Car That Avoids Crashes, But Doesn't Otherwise Interfere
July 16, 2012 4:14 PM
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System is designed to be less-intrusive then full-autopilot
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT) has developed a system called "intelligent co-pilot". Rather than aiming for fully autonomous artificial intelligence-driven driving, à la Google Inc.'s (
self-driving car project
, the new MIT study focuses on a "semi-autonomous" system.
I. Hunting for Safety
According to Sterling Anderson, a PhD student in MIT’s
Department of Mechanical Engineering
, most current commercially implemented algorithms hunt for static clues in their environment, such as the curb.
This isn't how the human driver functions.
Mr. Anderson, "The problem is, humans don’t think that way. When you and I drive, [we don’t] choose just one path and obsessively follow it. Typically you and I see a lane or a parking lot, and we say, ‘Here is the field of safe travel, here’s the entire region of the roadway I can use, and I’m not going to worry about remaining on a specific line, as long as I’m safely on the roadway and I avoid collisions."
To mirror that human mind-set the MIT team's algorithm uses so-called "homotopies" -- probable safe zones in the environment. The environment is triangulated, as the driver is drives to determine if the driver is crossing the border from safety to danger.
When such an event is detected, the car's AI takes over and steers the car around the obstacle, back into a homotopic (safe) zone.
The team has performed 1,200 trials in which they drive normally, but then abruptly head on a collision course with a construction barrel. Most times the car has been able to avoid the collision. The few incidents where there was a collision appear to have stemmed from camera failures.
The tests were performed on a course in Saline, Mich., a city in the state's southeast Washtenaw County.
Eaton Corp. intelligent truck technology manager Benjamin Saltsman praises the system for its minimalist approach. He says that the system uses less computation power and fewer sensors than fully autonomous alternatives from Google
Motor Comp. (
Comments Mr. Saltsman, "The implications of [Anderson's] system is it makes it lighter in terms of sensors and computational requirements than what a fully autonomous vehicle would require. This simplification makes it a lot less costly, and closer in terms of potential implementation."
II. Next -- Using a Smartphone
Mr. Anderson isn't completely satisfied with the system, however, as he fears it could lure beginning drivers to rely on the collision avoidance as a crutch and perform more risky maneuvers. On the flip side of the coin experienced drivers may be frustrated with the system for overriding dangerous maneuvers.
Still, he's convinced the technology may be eventually fine tuned to be relatively pleasing for the masses and save lives.
Fresh off a presentation at the
Intelligent Vehicles Symposium
in Spain, hosted by the Polytechnic School of the
University of Alcalá
in Madrid, Spain, the team is working to scale down their invention to an even simpler system.
Mr. Anderson and Karl Iagnemma, a principal research scientist in MIT’s
Robotic Mobility Group
, the other author of the work, will next look to use a dashboard mounted smartphone (which offers a camera, accelerometer, and gyroscope) to perform identical collision detection.
The MIT researchers next want to make the system capable of running
on a cell-phone using only its minimal sensors.
The ongoing research is funded by grants from the
United States Army Research Office
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
7/22/2012 7:59:56 AM
Why can't MIT people like Anderson just make a car that will obey the speed limit? That would save 10,000 lives, countless head and neck injuries, and $30 billion in medical and auto damage costs each year in the US. It would be simple and cheap to limit a cars speed to the posted limit. In that case all cars would be going about the same speed on on highways and not speeding through traffic lights, etc. There would be a lot less road rage too. They keep doing more and more research on cars that will drive themselves, but these cars are still in the future. Automatic speed control can be done now and cheaply. Most people would see the advantage of a car that can't exceed the speed limit - no risk of a speeding ticket, fewer tailgaters, increased safety, and by the way, it's already illegal to exceed the legal limit, so nobody's rights would be compromized.
RE: Preventing crashes
7/29/2012 6:41:31 PM
Do you actually know anyone who always obeys the speed limit??
I think my late grandmother used to, back in the 80s...
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