Friday, February 22, 2013
Driverless Cars Possible NOW
£5,000 Self Driving Car System Uses Off the Shelf Parts and can be added to any Regular Car
The Oxford University’s Mobile Robotics Group (MRG) RobotCar is a modified Nissan LEAF. Lasers and cameras are subtly mounted around the vehicle and taking up some of the boot space is a computer which performs all the calculations necessary to plan, control speed and avoid obstacles. Externally it's hard to tell this car apart from any other on the road. It is designed to take over driving while traveling on frequently used routes.
The MRG team sees an immediate future in production cars modified for autonomous driving only part of the time on frequently driven routes. They estimate that the cost of the system can be brought down from its current £5,000 ($7700) to only £100 (US$155).
Post production refitting of anything is far more expensive than doing it on the production line and computerisation follows Moore's Law on capcity cost, so the £100 addition per new car seems ambitious but feasible.
And the timescale is NOW.
Which means that the only thing that will stop it is government preventing it or requiring a man with a red flag to walk in front, as a previous British government did, making Britain a late developer in motor transport.
The potential effects of fully automated roads are almost beyond comprehension. What individual or industry will not finmd life considerably easier; how many deaths and injuries will be prevented; how many Mary Whitehouses will blame the deprevity of today's youth on it? And will we have it legalized before Zimbabwe?
==================== Driverless cars are just another major human expansion brought on by research done to win prizes. The canning industry (Naploeon's food preservation prize; plastics and film (celluloid), Australia, NZ & most of the Pacific (longitude prize), much of the aircraft industry etc. Just about the only thing on Earth that has more potential than driverless cars, shale gas, or nuclear power is government deciding to accept the principle that they should use the excess wealth created by inventors to fund X-Prizes.