Thursday, September 9, 2010

Alberto Broggi explains why drivers will soon be obsolete

Alberto Broggi is interviewed by New Scientist to explain his 13,000 kilometer drive in driverless car. Here is a description of the journey and technology used (you can tack the journey live here):

After about two decades of continuous research on Intelligent Vehicles, VisLab is preparing to set a new worldwide milestone in the field of Vehicular Robotics. Autonomous vehicles are being prepared and tested to drive with no human intervention from Parma, Italy, to Shanghai, China, along a 13,000 km and 3 months unique journey.

Not only the vehicles are unmanned, but they run on electrical power and the whole electronic pilot is powered by solar energy, making this trip unique in history: goods packed in Italy will be brought to Shanghai on an intercontinental route with no human intervention and without using traditional fuel for the first time in history.
Broggi thinks autonomous vehicles will be the majority of vehicles in the road in his lifetime. Since he has spent decades working on driver assistance systems, he probably has a good idea about the state of the practice.

Perhaps driverless vehicles will be the impetus to actually do something about congestion. Apparently the robots got confused in Moscow:

Q:What's the biggest challenge you've faced on this expedition?

A:Entering Moscow. We had to turn to manual mode because the traffic was really crazy. Our autopilot system looks at road markings to determine where to drive, but the drivers in Moscow were not obeying these markings. There were three or four lanes of cars where only two lanes were marked, and the autonomous pilot could not deal with it.

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