How many times have you driven the same route on the school run or the commute to work? Ever feel like you’re on auto-pilot when you’re making these well-known and usually mundane journeys?
Well soon you may be able to let the car do the driving for you – the boffins at Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science are working on technology that enables cars to “remember” regular routes and, if required, to drive themselves along them.
Of course there’s been progress made in this department over the last couple of years – we often blog updates on Google’s self-driving car project and motor manufacturer’s developments of self-parking cars and the like. Our interest is driven primarily by the potential road safety improvements that could lead to reduced car insurance
The Oxford tests, conducted on a science park rather than on the open road, are interesting because the aim of the Professor Paul Newman’s project is to develop an affordable self-driving solution. The kit needed for a Google self-drive car costs around £100,000. The Oxford team are working with computers, lasers and cameras that cost around £5,000 at present – and the ambition is to get this down to £100! At this level, it is believed, self-drive car technology will become universally available. And it could happen in the next 15 years!
The British-developed system uses 3D laser scanning and a computer storage system to build a 3D map of the car’s surroundings which is accurate to a few centimetres. This allows a car to quickly “learn” a regular route and to offer the driver an “auto-drive” option when it recognises a known route. The driver can re-take control of the vehicle simply by tapping the brake.
Whilst to many this kind of technology may seem like science fiction, industry experts are agreed that it will become a reality in the relatively near future, changing the way we drive and bringing with it safer, better-flowing roads, new types of vehicle and, perhaps, an end to the drudgery of that morning commute!
We’ll keep you posted on developments.