Oxford University tests out their new self-driving car system

Feb 17, 2013
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Oxford University tests out their new self-driving car system

A team of scientists at Oxford University, led by Professor Paul Newman, has developed a new self-driving car system that that is supposedly much more advanced than the one being developed by Google. The self-driving car system will be able to be implemented into existing cars. The car that the team test drove was a Nissan Leaf electric car, and it was tested on the private roads of Oxford University.


The driverless car was able to navigate through difficult weather conditions, like snow and rain. It yielded for pedestrians, and navigated efficiently through traffic jams. The car was able to reach speeds of up to 40 MPH. The system uses 3D laser scanning linked with a computer storage that creates maps of its surroundings and saves them. The new system is accurate to a few centimeters, whereas GPS navigation systems are only accurate to a few meters. The car is then able to recognize where it is with a laser scanner on the front of the car combined with the data saved in its storage system. The Oxford team plans on working on an updating feature that allows these self-driving cars to be able to download information when they pass one another on the road. They also plan on implementing a feature that allows these cars to download data directly from the internet through a 3G or 4G data connection.

The system informs drivers when it's going to take over. If the driver wants to allow it, all they have to do is press the green button on the display screen. However, if the car system believes that automatic driving may be a risk, like in conditions where it can't verify its location, it will ask the driver to take over.

Dr. Martin Spring from Lancaster University, who also co-authored a paper about the potential of driverless cars, commented on the innovation this new system can bring. With this new technology, he believes that cars will look very different in the future. Cars may have an interior that is just a small room where drivers can do what they want until they reach their destination. Dr. Spring also commented on how things like streetlights could go obsolete. That's something I have to disagree with him on. I believe he forgot that people still like to walk places, and they're going to need those streetlights to find their way around.

Professor Newman said that there is "no obvious legal barrier to using it on the roads" as long as there is a licensed driver in the driver's seat. The system currently costs around 5000 pounds, or $7760.50, but Newman says that his team is working on reducing that number to only 100 pounds ($155.21). Can you imagine having your car chauffeur you around town? It's an exciting advancement in technology, one that Newman believes will be implemented in around 15 years.

[via The Guardian]


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