A team at researchers from Oxford University have developed an iPad app that turns a Nissan Leaf electric car into an autonomous vehicle.
Researchers mounted an iPad in the dashboard of the Leaf and the program allows the driver to give the iPad permission to take over driving responsibilities in certain areas.
The system works through mounted cameras and lasers that are integrated into the body of the vehicle. Those peripherals are then linked to a computer that is housed in the trunk of the vehicle.
At the moment the system only works in frequently driven areas and is personalized based on the driver. Should the person behind the wheel need to take over driving responsibilities they simply tap the brake pedal and manual controls are restored.
According to Professor Paul Newman of the Oxford University Department of Engineering Science:
“Our approach is made possible because of advances in 3D laser mapping that enable an affordable car-based robotic system to rapidly build up a detailed picture of its surroundings.”
Professor Newman adds:
“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 system isn’t cheap at $7,580 but researchers believe with mass production they can get those costs down to $150 (minus the cost of an iPad).
The vehicle is currently being tested at Begbroke Science Park after which time it will be fine-tuned to make better, more accurate decisions.
The Oxford team is hardly the first to develop an autonomous vehicle, Google has had its cars on the roads of California for years without a single computer-assisted accident. Ironically the only accidents involving Google vehicles have occurred when the system was turned off or when a non-autonomous vehicle caused the crash.
Are you excited for driverless vehicles?
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