Junior the robotically brainy VW
February 20, 2007
DARPA, the Defence Advance Research Projects Agency, was responsible for inventing the internet, not Al Gore as some would believe.
They have been responsible for developing technologies which have had a major impact on our lives, and have already conducted experiments regarding the capabilities of unmanned military vehicles.
Junior the robotically brainy VW is a creation of the Stanford Racing Team with advanced technology including software that enables it to tell the difference between moving and stationary objects, and measure the speed of other cars so as to avoid collisions. Junior should prove to be an able competitor in the DARPA Urban Challenge.
The new generation driverless car is on the horizon, with the promise or at least high hopes of a new generation of self-driving cars which eliminate human error and maybe even road rage.
Imagine owning an autonomous car!
How could car manufacturers credibly claim that our car is an extension of our individual personality and makes a statement about who we are if it possesses a mind of it’s own.
The goal is to program these cars to be able to navigate their way through the urban landscape, including traffic lights, intersections, exercising high level judgements such as working out who has right of way.
Does that mean I will no longer have to worry about drivers juggling their make up kits, mobiles, and watching the latest blockbuster movie on the freeway?
Making a driverless car through AI seems like an ambitious task.
I have resigned myself to failure in making sense of and predicting the moves of the urban driver in the new millenium, and commend the programmers and engineering teams at Stanford and Carnegie Mellon Universities in building a machine that is capable of overcoming the mindnumbing stupidity of some human drivers.
What about when these machines are ready to be released on the roads, and what will happen in the transition period? Will they be routine tested for performance failure? If accidents occur, will the car with the ‘smaller brain’ be at fault?
How will insurance companies allocate risk? And most importantly will these computer parts come in Mary Kay pink? During my lifetime I probably won’t have to worry about the answers to these questions.
Meanwhile, the Carnegie Mellon team have been fitting a brain into Junior, a 2006 Volkswagen Passat wagon in preparation for the 2007 DARPA urban challenge.
It is comforting to know that Intel is inside Junior’s brain which processes data from various instruments 200 times a second.