A robotic car that drives itself and self-navigates has been created by Oxford University scientists who say the technology could hit the real road within 15 years.
The robotic vehicle, dubbed ‘Wildcat’, identifies its surroundings with lasers and a stereo camera and uses an onboard computer to process the information and decide where to drive. It takes into account the environment around it and other moving objects by mapping out a 3D picture of its surroundings.
The calculations of speed and direction are all part of a system that the scientists say is much more precise than typical GPS navigation – working within inch margins – and is fully autonomous. It is powered by a 16-core computer to co-ordinate the sensors and another computer to act as the ‘brain’.
“The new technology is set to remove the dependence on GPS, improve navigation precision, lower emissions, interpret local traffic conditions, track risks, and above all offer a hands-free experience to the driver,” said Professor Paul Newman from Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science.
Professor Newman identifies that changing road infrastructure by adding guide wires and beacons to facilitate self-driving cars would be too impractical. Instead, he thinks that making autonomous cars without the need for human influence is the greater alternative.
“Our long-term aim is to enable a new generation of robotic vehicles that can make the roads safer, less congested, cleaner, and personal transport more accessible. We do this by making smarter cars,” added Newman.