Arguably autonomous cars are the next major hurdle facing both automakers and supplier companies. It seems like the entire industry is working on self-driving vehicles, including Volvo.
The Swedish firm just wrapped up a research project that explores the possibility of embedding magnets in the road surface for more accurate and reliable autonomous cars. This ambitious venture was financed in cooperation with the Swedish Transport Administration.
Existing technologies including GPS and forward-facing cameras have limitations. Physical obstacles can block their scanning abilities as can adverse weather. Ferrite magnets embedded right in the road have no such disadvantages.
The magnets are round and measure about 40 by 15 millimeters – roughly an inch and a half by half an inch. They’re safely buried 200 millimeters (approximately eight inches) below the road surface where they’re totally safe from weather or damage.
These magnets create an invisible railway that guides autonomous vehicles. Accuracy is pretty impressive, with variation of less than one decimeter, which is about four inches. Beyond self-driving cars these embedded magnets can help other vehicles as well. For instance, they can guide plow trucks more accurately in adverse conditions so they don’t damage things buried in snow.
Volvo is working on a large-scale autonomous pilot project with 100 self-driving vehicles. These cars have taken to public roads in the company’s hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden. Self-driving technology may not be available at this time but if advancements keep coming like this it may not be very far off.
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