By Binu Paul email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Mar 01, 2013 09:03 AM EST
The concept of self-driving Google car has been making headlines for a while and the head of the project had recently announced that the car will be available to customers in three-five years.
While the much-talked about Google car is yet to become a reality, there is an interesting development coming from UK where researchers have managed to integrate the self-driving car technology into an Apple iPad that enables the car to drive itself.
Researchers at Oxford University are testing a driverless Nissan Leaf electric vehicle which is controlled by an iPad. The device will enable a person to take over the car or switch to 'auto drive,' which permits the robot system to drive itself, Apple Insider reports (via Clean Technica).
"We are working on a low-cost 'auto drive' navigation system, that doesn't depend on GPS, done with discrete sensors that are getting cheaper all the time," Professor Paul Newman of Oxford University's Department of Engineering Science explained the project.
The idea is to achieve a middle-ground between today's human-controlled cars and a completely automated self-driving car. Researchers at the UK University are looking for developing a solution where the vehicle does a whole lot of driving functionalities, but not cars driving themselves all the time.
According to their technology, the car occasionally alerts the driver when it knows a route and the driver has the option of letting the car take over. The prompt is performed by an Apple iPad that is placed on the dashboard and the device flashes an 'auto-drive' option when the system recognizes an area. Once the auto-drive option is activated, the control of the car will be taken over by the internal system that depends on cameras and lasers built into the body of the car as well as an additional computer in the trunk.
While the iPad remains to be the medium to interact with the system, a simple tap on the brakes will switch the system back to manual control. The system is currently at its infancy and according to Professor Newman, the long-term goal of the group is to create a system that will cost about £100. The current prototype navigation system costs £5,000.
Technological advancement in laser mapping is viewed as the nucleus of the system. "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," Newman said. "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?,'" he says.
Check out the video below to see the system in action:
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