Move over, Google, Continental. Academia may deliver autonomous, or self-driving cars, faster and – more importantly — cheaper to the masses.
The prototype autonomous car system is being developed by the University of Oxford, Oxford, England. The system uses cameras and laser beams to map a three-dimensional image of its surroundings. The car’s main computer system uses that information to navigate the car on the road. A simple Apple iPad interfaces with the driver to turn off and on the system. Unlike Google’s self-driving cars, the Oxford system does not use GPS to determine its location.
The Oxford system also differs from the Google and Continental systems in that it’s meant to be used only on certain stretches of the drive, not the entire route. It can be envisioned as a more advanced form of cruise control used in today’s vehicles. Says Professor Paul Newman, one of the research leads, “Instead of imagining some cars driving themselves all of the time we should imagine a time when all cars can drive themselves some of the time. The sort of very low cost, low footprint autonomy we are developing is what’s needed for everyday use.”
Automaker Nissan provides the vehicles for the Oxford system. Professor Newman estimates the cost of the prototype to cost around $7,500. The goal is to reduce the system to around $150. No date has been given when the system will be available to auto makers, if ever. According to Newman and his team, the next step for their system is design it so it can determine the best route to a location.
‘Whilst our technology won’t be in a car showroom near you any time soon, and there’s lots more work to do, it shows the potential for this kind of affordable robotic system that could make our car journeys safer, more efficient, and more pleasant for drivers,’ said the professor.