Oxford Tests Self-Driving Cars
Using advances in 3D laser mapping technology, Oxford University has developed a car that is able to drive itself along familiar routes. This new self-driving automobile uses lasers and small cameras to memorize everyday trips such as the morning commute. This car is not dependant on GPS because this car is able to tell where it is by recognizing its surroundings. The intent is for this car to be capable of taking over the drive when on routes that it has travelled before.
While being driven, the car is capable of developing a 3D model of its environment and learning routes. When driving a particular journey a second time, an iPad on the dashboard informs the driver that it is capable of taking over and finishing the drive. The driver can then touch the screen and the car shifts to 'auto drive' mode. The driver can reclaim control of the car at any time by simply tapping the brakes.
The Oxford researchers are in the process of working on getting approval from the UK Department of Transportation to get permission to test drive it on the road. In the meantime, the team has developed a special testing environment with small roads and road markings.
The intent is to eventually mass-produce cars such as this and market them to consumers at low-cost to reduce driving stress. At the moment the system costs roughly 5000 pounds, but Professor Newman from the Oxford Department of Engineering hopes to eventually be able to lower the price to as low as 100 pounds.
Similar technology has already been tested by many car manufacturers such as auto-parking. Google has also been testing driverless cars for several years, however there are a number of key differences between Oxford's and Google's technology. For instance, Google uses a very expensive spinning laser on the roof of the car, and Oxford's automobile doesn't require this.