Electric cars are often viewed as the personal transportation solution for the future, though a team of researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK is looking beyond that, to vehicles that drive themselves. And they’ve come up with a prototype that costs far less than you might expect.
While automakers like Audi and tech giants like Google have already publicized efforts in autonomous driving, this research team has matched their billion dollar resources with a “bolt-on” solution that costs just $7,600.
Taking the fully-electric Nissan Leaf, already a futuristic vehicle, the Mobile Robotics Group (MRG) from the university’s Department of Engineering Science has fitted lasers, cameras and sensors to an onboard computer that can read the car’s road and surroundings. The team believes that, “GPS does not offer the accuracy required for robots to make decisions about how and when to move safely.”
Instead, this system works by essentially memorizing a drive route by a human, then copying it, while the car’s censors watch for objects that need to be avoided autonomously.
Engaging the autonomous driving function in the RobotCar Leaf, as it’s known, is as simple as hitting a few buttons on a dash-mounted iPad, while the driver can take back control of the car at any time by tapping the brake pedal – as one would to disengage cruise control.
The goal, according to the Mobile Robotics Group, is to develop a driverless car so that, “we are not condemned to a future of congestion, accidents and time wasting.”
Built for 7,600 on top of the price of a Leaf, the team believes that by 2030 such technology could be installed in the factory for as little as $150!
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