Back in July, two all-electric, driverless vans set out from Italy bound for China, an 8,000-mile trek through two continents, several countries, and endless driving variables like traffic, weather conditions, and roadway conditions. A few dings and only a handful of human interventions later, the vans arrived at the Shanghai Expo today, marking the first transcontinental journey by driverless vehicles that we've heard about.
The vans – which carried technicians to run the sophisticated computer and sensor systems as well as to take the wheel if a situation turned dangerous – operated without human stimulus or direction for nearly the entire trip using an artificial vision system called GOLD (Generic Obstacle and Lane Detection). The system analyzed the roadway ahead and the lane markers on the road, adjusting the wheel, acceleration, and braking to keep the van cruising comfortably down the road.
That's pretty impressive, considering the vans forged through everything from Moscow traffic to remote regions of Siberia and the Gobi Desert. Running at a maximum speed of 38 miles per hour, the toughest obstacles seemed to be the least daunting; while the human teams had to intervene once in Moscow gridlock, the only recurring obstacle requiring human intervention were tolling stations.
Otherwise, the four solar-charged laser sensors and seven video cameras on each van performed well in variable weather conditions and in sometimes adverse driving conditions. There were no maps; the vans found their own route to Shanghai. One van even pulled over at one point to offer a hitchhiker a lift.
The trip was less a demonstration and more a data-gathering experiment. The reams of information collected from the sensor suite will be used to improve the vision system, correct mistakes in computer judgment, and hopefully to program in a stern warning about the dangers of picking up shiftless drifters on remote stretches of highway.
Amazing. Can't wait till all cars are robotic.
I wonder what the hitchhiker thought.
Love, Peace & Soul
we need driverless cars bad . I cant wait for the day I can get in my car and just drink my coffee and surf the web or look out the window while I'm taken to work in my robotic car.
seriously...or get a ride home while your wasted and not get in a car accident. if all those drunk driving statistics that have been shoved down my throat are true, an autonomous car would save quite a few lives in today's world
haha, it would probably still be illegal to ride under the influence.
i'd definitely trust that over other people's driving... but a malfunction there would be so bad
wow, i don't know if i would be able to trust a driverless van! however, i think that it's a really big step in the right direction if they're all electric cars..and that they drove that crazy distance in tons of conditions, without a human..
Wow, driverless cars. There are some people out there who should not be allowed on the road, so this could be a good development. But it is also pretty scary,i am not sure if i would trust a computer to drive me. There are so many things that could malfunction, and so many unseen obsticles on the roads that i dont think a computer could react to as well as a human could.
The tipping point will arrive with the Insurance companies insistence that driving manually invalidates coverage.
Wow! Imagine having a fully-automatic car! It would be awesome! Can't wait for the future!
Wow, this would be great. I am not that old but it still stresses me to think of all the amazing things I will miss out on.
Not sure if I would be comfortable. It would be a possibility for someone to hack into the vehicle's computer (I'm pretty sure they wouldn't allow these to wander without some time of remote shutdown). However, if the only remote command available would be to simply grind to a halt and shut down the engine, I guess it would not be all bad...
Pretty cool. Manual controls should be a must just like in aircraft.
I like the idea of being able to relax and enjoy the ride, but I also like the idea of being able to take over if things go wrong.