Camera-enabled electric car drives itself

Peter Clarke 2/15/2013 8:17 AM EST

Camera-enabled electric car drives itself

LONDON – Technology developed at Oxford University has been used enable a Nissan Leaf electric car to drive itself over a route that it has previously trained to recognize. As well as recognizing where it is and controlling the car the technology includes safety systems for collision avoidance.

The car was given a run out at Begbroke Science Park, near Oxford, England.The technology does not rely on any additional infrastructure or even satellite navigation thereby reducing cost and easing introduction.

The Nissan Leaf has small cameras and lasers built into the body of the car and linked to a computer in the boot while the user interface and control is performed from an iPad added to the dashboard. At any time a tap on the brake pedal returns control to the human driver.

Nissan Leaf with extensive cameras and computer systems driving itself.

"Our approach is made possible because of advances in 3-D laser mapping that enable an affordable car-based robotic system to rapidly build up a detailed picture of its surroundings," said Professor Paul Newman of Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science, who is leading the research alongside Oxford’s Ingmar Posner.

"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?’ and the driver can choose to let the technology take over."

The prototype navigation system costs around £5,000 (about $7,700) but the long-term goal is to produce a system costing about £100 (about $155), said Professor Newman.

The next stage of the research will involve enabling the robotic system to understand complex traffic flows, such as might be found at traffic lights, and make decisions as to which routes to take.
‘Whilst our technology won’t be in a car showroom near you any time soon, and there’s lots more work to do, it shows the potential for this kind of affordable robotic system that could make our car journeys safer, more efficient, and more pleasant for drivers,’ said Professor Newman.

Related links and articles:
Mobile Robotics Group YouTube channel

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