Picture this. You stop at a traffic light and glance at the car next to you. The “driver” is reading his newspaper. The traffic light turns green and you pull off. The “driver” in the car next to you continues to read his newspaper as his car also pulls off.
His car maintains a perfect line and brakes as he approaches a slower moving truck. The cars right indicator comes on and he changes lanes and slots in behind you. You glance nervously into your rear-view mirror. The “driver” is now talking on his cell phone and appears to be drinking a cup of coffee! He finishes his conversation (and his coffee) as you stop for another traffic light. His takes off his glasses and closes his eyes. Both cars pull off from the traffic light. You accelerate to get clear of this madman, but his car maintains a safe and constant distance behind your car.
Science Fiction? No, not at all, merely a robot-controlled car available in the not to distant future.
On Sunday, Carnegie Mellon Universities Tartan Racing took home $2 million for first place in DARPA’s Urban Challenge, a test of driverless cars on urban streets at the former George Air Force Base in Southern California’s Mojave Desert.
The team from the University of Central Florida (picture below) was eliminated within hours of the competition after running into an abandoned house on the former George Air Force Base. Note the safety car following.
DARPA released more than 30 vehicles to simulate real traffic conditions for the robots in the Urban Challenge. The vehicles, modified Ford Taurus cars (see picture below), were built for safety, specified to Nascar standards, according to race officials. And the cars are driven by professional drivers.
Race officials said that there was a bet among the drivers on who would get hit first.
Team Oshkosh, a more than 24,000-pound Oshkosh truck, nearly ran into an old shopping center at the former George Air Force Base, after it had run over a parking lot curb. The team was later cut from the competition.
One of the trickiest points in the challenge, a four-way stop in an old housing area of the former George Air Force Base. Here, the bots had to figure out which car had the right of way before making right or left turns. The team from UCF, pictured to the right at the stop sign, was stuck for several minutes trying to figure out what to do next. Meanwhile, the robots from Stanford, MIT and CMU navigated the intersection without trouble.
Credit : CNET News.com
With quantum leaps in GPS and sensor technology, driverless cars are just around the corner, literally and figuratively.
Ah Larry, I’ll have another beer after all.