We may now be closer to obtaining self-driving vehicles for widespread use and this is thanks to a 19-year-old Romanian student who came up with a low-cost autonomous car system. The idea brought Ionut Budisteanu the top prize, a $75,000 scholarship, in the Intel international Science and Engineering Fair.
Attempts to crease self-driving vehicles have been made for several years now. Google is working on a prototype since 2010, while car manufacturers, including General Motors, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and others, are also developing their own autonomous or semi-autonomous driving systems.
But what sets Budisteanu’s idea apart is that it is truly affordable and therefore more likely to be accessible to the general public. The Romanian teen told NBC News that Google, for instance, has been developing its self-driving car project without looking at the costs.
The most expensive piece of technology the Google system uses is a high resolution 3D radar and Budisteanu tried to remove this item from his design. Instead, his project uses a low-resolution 3D radar that can recognize large objects such as houses or other cars.
The radar’s performance is coupled with imagery taken by vehicle mounted webcams, meant to detect curbs and lane markings and monitor the car’s position in real time. The webcam feeds are analyzed by AI technology that can calculate the best route for the car based on all the information it has collected.
Budisteanu said 47 of 50 simulations performed flawlessly, as the system failed to pick up some people at a 65-100 foot distance. A slightly higher resolution 3D radar would fix the problem, the teen explained, adding that this would still make the system much cheaper than Google’s.
The 3D radar used by Google costs about $75,000, while Budisteanu’s system will cost a total of $4,000, making the technology considerably more affordable for the masses. The 19-year-old student received funding form a Romanian car company to start testing a prototype for his low-cost self-driving car this summer.
Other young scientists awarded at the Intel science fair besides Budisteanu were 18-year-old Eesha Khare of California, who received $50,000 for inventing a tiny supercapacitator, and 17-year-old Henry Lin of Louisiana, who was awarded $50,000 for creating a simulation of thousands of galaxy clusters that will give scientists a better understanding of dark matter and dark energy.
[Image via Intel]