Last year a program called SATRE has been introduced to European consumers. Tests have shown that road-trains are a possibility to reduce accidents and emissions. Now Scientists at Oxford University have presented a self-driving car being able to cope with any weather condition from snow, heavy rain and dry conditions.
SATRE is a program where road-trains move on public streets. Road-trains? A road-train consists of 7 vehicles: A leading vehicle with an experienced driver who directs speed and direction and six cars or Lorries following. Technique makes it possible. All technique and equipment which is necessary is already present in the car: Wi-Fi, Cameras, GPS and cruise-control. “Cars these days are pretty much fly-by-wire – the computer controls it all,” Newman, professor of Oxford University, said.The vehicles can communicate and the drivers on the train, except the one leading, can do whatever they feel like doing.
The developed program by Oxford scientists does not work with GPS but with 3D-lasers. GPS is neither accurate nor reliable enough for a trip through the city. The 3D-lasers scan their surroundings and build up maps which are accurate to a few centimetres. Additionally, maps of the cities can be put in the systems as well. “Our cities don’t change very much, so robotic vehicles will see familiar structures and say ‘I know this route – want me to drive?’”
Those cars will halt for pedestrians and could even take over in tricky but tiring situations as jams or regulate commutes. The car will ‘pay attention’ and if the roads can be match with the data in the system, it will offer the driver to take over. The driver can decide himself if he wants to drive or if he wants to be driven around. Some members of the team joke about letting the car drive around by itself instead for looking for a parking spot. Why not?
At present, the car reaches a velocity of 40mph and the system costs £5.000. Researchers will work on the price to reduce it down to £100. If that is possible Newman thinks that self-driving systems could become commonplace in 15 years.