Now-a-days, electric cars are often viewed as the personal transportation solution for the future, but a team of researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK is thinking bigger. They are thinking vehicles that drive themselves and they’ve come up with a prototype that costs far less than you might think.
With tech giants like Google and automakers like Audi have already publicized its autonomous driving efforts, this research team has matched their billion dollar resources with a “bolt-on” solution that costs only $7,600.
Taking an already futuristic vehicle, the fully-electric Nissan Leaf, the Mobile Robotics Group (MRG) from the university’s Department of Engineering Science has fitted lasers, cameras, and sensors to an onboard computer that can read the car’s road and surrounding. The team believes that, “GPS does not offer the accuracy required for robots to make decisions about how and when to move safely.”
As a substitute, this system works by essentially memorizing a drive route by a human, then copying it, while the car’s censor watch for objects that need to be avoided autonomously. Using the autonomous driving function in this prototype, known as the RobotCar Leaf, is as simple as hitting a few buttons on a dash-mounted iPad, while the driver can take back control of the car at any time, by tapping the brake pedal- as one would to disengage cruise control.
According to the Mobile Robotics Group, the goal is to develop a driverless car so that, “we are not condemned to a future of congestion, accidents and time wasting.” Built for $7,600 on top of the price of a Leaf, the team believes that by 2030 such technology could be installed in the factory for as little as $150.