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Oxford Tests Self-Driving Cars 95

halls-of-valhalla writes "Using advances in 3D laser mapping technology, Oxford University has developed a car that is able to drive itself along familiar routes. This new self-driving automobile uses lasers and small cameras to memorize everyday trips such as the morning commute. This car is not dependant on GPS because this car is able to tell where it is by recognizing its surroundings. The intent is for this car to be capable of taking over the drive when on routes that it has traveled before. While being driven, the car is capable of developing a 3D model of its environment and learning routes. When driving a particular journey a second time, an iPad on the dashboard informs the driver that it is capable of taking over and finishing the drive. The driver can then touch the screen and the car shifts to 'auto drive' mode. The driver can reclaim control of the car at any time by simply tapping the brakes."
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Oxford Tests Self-Driving Cars

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  • by Tx ( 96709 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:22AM (#42934907) Journal

    According to a TV report I saw on this, the point of the Oxford technology is that it's supposed to be much simpler and cheaper than existing implementations, with the development version costing only £5000, and projected price of a commercial version of just £100.

    It would be nice if such the article mentioned the existence of comparable tech, such as Google's self-driving cars, and perhaps did some comparisons, but unfortunately being a science and technology journalist these days means copying and pasting press releases, so the journo in question probably actually does have such little interest in technology that he hasn't head of the Google initiative. Sad.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Monday February 18, 2013 @11:23AM (#42935513)

    Google's self-driving car is probably considerably more expensive at around $250000

    That is the cost of an engineering prototype. The cost of massed produced cars would be far lower. I talked to a Google engineer that was demoing one of their cars at the San Jose Fairgrounds. He pointed out a bulky optical rotary encoder on each wheel, about the size of a soda can, and said they cost over $2000 each. He said they were going to soon replace them with a magnetic hall-effect encoder the size of a penny. Cost: $3 each.

  • by f0rdpr3fect42 ( 1866122 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @11:40AM (#42935695)
    While replacing their expensive encorder certainly helps, Google has a long way to go to bring down their pricing. In particular, the LIDAR unit on the top is probably dominating the price. The model in question costs around $75,000 and as far as I can tell, Google isn't getting rid of it anytime soon.

    Of note: I expect that the LIDAR unit in the Oxford car is also dominating the price, and expected price decrease in the future would be achieved by going camera-only.
  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Monday February 18, 2013 @11:53AM (#42935807)

    the car announces it's confused and you should take over, whilst zipping down the road.

    Unless the people developing this are complete morons, there is no way this could happen. The car knows its safe braking distance, and if it cannot map out a route beyond that distance with an acceptable degree of confidence, it would pull over to the side of the road, come to a stop, and then alert the driver.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) * on Monday February 18, 2013 @12:08PM (#42935961)

    the LIDAR unit on the top is probably dominating the price. The model in question costs around $75,000

    How many LIDAR units are sold every year? Maybe a few thousand? 60 million cars [] are manufactured each year. That kind of volume can lead to huge price decreases.

    expected price decrease in the future would be achieved by going camera-only.

    Cameras don't deal well with rain, snow, and fog.

  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul ( 629286 ) on Monday February 18, 2013 @03:55PM (#42938261) Journal

    No. Just making it non human is already an advantage in some respects. I would gladly replace myself with a self-driving car if it was as good as myself. I might even be willing to pay double for a car with that feature. I mean leather seats, climate control, wood paneling interior, crazy powerful engines, are features I wouldn't pay an extra dime for. Luxury for luxury's sake is stupid, imho. As is speed for speed's sake. But give me a car that drives itself, I 'll buy one right now for twice the price that my existing car is.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner