A self-driving car has been shown off at an event in Oxford.
“Nothing new there, Google have been doing that for ages” I hear you cry (perhaps only if you are as sad as I am and keep up with the techno news!). In this case though you would be wrong to compare, as the technology behind this self driving car is a little different.
Google’s car has a collection of technologies, designed to tell the car where it is at any given time, using GPS and 3D laser mapping techniques and cameras; That’s why there is a huge thing on the roof – it’s the laser scanner.
The Oxford car however simply uses cameras to teach the car where to go on certain routes which it will recognise and offer to “take the wheel”; which you have the option of doing. So for journeys you take often – such as the school run, or the daily commute – the car will drive you there once it knows where it’s going. You drive it somewhere, it creates a 3D model of the journey, and once it’s learned the route, you can let it take you there (or back) again.
There are a few problems with self driving cars though, and they are not all technical…
On the tech side, there’s always the ‘What If’ scenario, that is totally unpredictable; What if a child runs out in front of you?; What if it’s a rabbit and there’s nowhere to swerve? There are innumerable situations where these types of things occur and our brains make instant decisions based on our experiences which are almost inconceivable for a computer to work out.
On the non tech side there are many legal issues that will need to be legislated for too – Who gets sued in the case of an accident? for instance…
On the upside it’s estimated that the technology for self-driving cars is only 15 years away before becoming commercially available – 15 long years before we can all start enjoying a long, leisurely lunch at the local boozer 😉