It’s not just Google developing the future of automobile travel. Oxford University has just shed some light on the self-driving cars a team of scientists is developing.
In fact, the Oxford version is said to be more advanced than the system being developed by Google. (cue the ‘so the race is on – start your engines’ joke here) So what makes the Oxford self-driving car so special? Here are a few of the noteworthy features (other than the fact that it’s a car that drives itself!)
Key Things To Know
- It can be incorporated into existing cars. (The Oxford team uses an electric Nissan LEAF)
- The self-drive system runs about £5,000 – but the team says they plan to lower that to £500 and eventually as low as £100.
- The self-driving car can navigate through snow, rain, and other precipitation.
- The car automatically avoids pedestrians, traffic, and can hit up to 40MPH without a problem. (Personally, I still think I’d instinctively try to grab the wheel over and over while sitting in a self-driving car)
- The Oxford self-driving car system uses 3D laser scanning to create a map of surroundings – it’s apparently accurate within a few centimeters (GPS is accurate to a few meters, so you do the math)
- There’s an interesting feature that lets cars ‘talk’ to one another as they pass by on the road. The team of scientists, led by Professor Paul Newman, are developing a way for other cars to instantly share their knowledge of previous trips with other cars to enhance the quality of map information in your car. Fascinating! They also plan on letting cars update themselves over an Internet connection.
How Does It Work?
The video above is a look at the ‘Dynamic Obstacle Detection’ that the system uses.
So how does it work? Well, that’s the extremely complicated and technical stuff that would take an entire manual to talk about. But if you’re wondering how it works for the driver, it’s relatively simple. Basically the car tells you / asks you when it is going to take over the driving. If the driver wants that, there’s a simple green button to press (see the image for what that looks like).
More importantly, the automatic driving system will actually hand back controls to the driver if the system is finding it too difficult to drive itself. In other words, it’s aware that it’s not being as accurate as possible due to weather or other conditions and will ask to let the driver take the wheel. A great feature for anyone nervous about the rise of the machines a la Terminator.
The video above shows what happens when you let the self-driving system take over.
Who Will Win The Race?
So who will win the self-driving car race? At this point, Oxford, Google, BMW and just a few others are miles ahead and the future seems inevitable. We’re going to have a Minority Report-style self-driving car within our lifetime … or not. The self-driving car may very well go the way of the Segway and be relegated to theme parks and malls. But what do I know?
What do you think? Would you ride in a self-driving car? Would it take some getting used to?