We may not be getting the flying cars that Back to the Future promised us in 2015, but we are getting automated ones, that much is clear. When we’ll get them and in what guise however is a bit uncertain, as while Google is ahead of the curve in most respects, its full automation could take some wrangling and further development to come to the fore. While it handles that however, there’s other competitors waiting in the wings, whether you look to Israel’s Mobileye, or something closer to home with the likes of students from US universities, who spent much of yesterday showing off their own automated car developments.
“We’re designing the way the car drives and giving it its personality,” said Anthony Rodriguez, a senior at the University of Arizona. Teammate Rachel Powers, also a senior there explained how though effective, their system was not particularly cost effective: “It has an 80 thousand dollar sensor on it right now that generates a 3d image of its surroundings.”
Other students from around the country also attended, with one coming from the University of California Berkeley, to help work on the automated control systems. Over the past few months, they’ve all been working on different aspects of an automated vehicle’s systems, be that object avoidance, maintaining lane position, automated braking, location positioning or other factors.
“The real importance is to let students work on problems at a societal scale,” said Dr Jonathan Sprinkle, an advisor on the program, who described the work as driven by the students themselves, something that he believes is deathly important to their development. He went on to say that he liked to set students tasks that were grand in scale, ones that would allow them to truly help society improve.
Sprinkles also said that he hoped driverless cars would help cut automotive fatalities in the future, especially in the local area, though he doesn’t know if the students’ push to develop the technology will help bring it there any sooner, as like elsewhere in the country (and the world) Arizona is limited by its legislation on what’s allowed on the roads and what’s not.
“I can see something where we actually have our car drop us off at work and then take itself to fill it with gas and take itself for an oil change,” he said.
Students at the university will continue to develop their own technologies over the next few months, though there’s no word on if any of them have plans to continue working on it after they leave University, which for some of them isn’t that far away. Companies like Google would be wise to watch what they plan to do afterwards, as employing people with experience not only developing automated systems, but attempting to innovate them too would be a smart plan.
If not, I’m sure one of the main car makers around the world will be interested.