Robocar race winner: Aging drivers may get self-guided autos

But adequate levels of reliability still more than a decade away

In fact, some of the most interesting technologies developed for the race were the tools that enabled the self-guided cars to make those kinds of "smart" decisions, said Urmson, whose team worked on the Urban Challenge for the past 18 months.

"One of the neatest things was the behavioral [technology], getting the robot to act reasonably," he said. "When a person comes up to an intersection and you're not sure who should go first, at some point, one of us would go. You need to get a robot to think, 'OK, it's not officially my turn, but one of us should go, so I'm going to just go.' It needs to act reasonably, and then [be able to] recover and do something reasonable when it gets confused."

Programming that level of artificial intelligence into Boss gave Tartan Racing a leg up on the competition, Urmson added, noting that it helped the vehicle avoid another robotic car that was coming toward it -- partly in the lane that Boss was rightfully occupying.

"Apparently, the other robot was oblivious that it was in the wrong lane," Urmson said. Boss "dodged out of the way" and then stopped short after it swerved toward a concrete barrier -- seeming to think at first that it was stuck, according to Urmson.

"From a human point of view, you would have said, 'Whoa, that was close' and continued driving," he said. "Boss sat there for a minute or two and then backed up and continued driving down the road. It got a little confused and then figured out something to try, and away it went."

The car's ability to figure out that something had gone wrong and what it should do to get out of trouble is "very exciting," Urmson continued. "Obviously, we'd like to build a system that's perfect. But that's not going to happen, so you need to build a system that will recover when it makes mistakes. That was great to see."

Although it may be another 10 years or more before autonomous vehicles are actually driving people to and from the grocery store, Urmson said that radar systems and vehicle tracking technology could start to be incorporated into production vehicles right away. That, he added, could help to curb the average annual count of 43,000 deadly auto accidents that occur in the U.S. alone.

Urmson said that Tartan Racing teamed up with General Motors as part of its preparations for the Urban Challenge, and that automaker has expressed interested in the technology that the team has been developing.

"I know that [GM] is excited about the race and that they see autonomous vehicles as an important part of the future," he added. "It's such a ground-breaking demonstration for robotics. We showed the world what could be done and hopefully opened the door to taking this technology to make cars safer and save lives."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?