Driverless car is no more a fantasy. The car of the future which is totally computer controlled and that can talk,see,drive and no longer needs a human being to control it is in the streets of Berlin. Researchers at Autonomous Labs have been working on autonomous vehicles since 2007, and MadeInGermany has been certified for autonomous driving since June 2011. The scientists have worked on their research car,a Volkswagen Passat worth euro 400,000 with lots of built-in special technology,for four years .  It has covered thousands of kilometres in testing before its public drive in Berlin.

The vehicle manoeuvres through traffic on its own using a  sophisticate combination of devices,,including a computer,electronics and a precision satellite navigation system in the trunk,a camera in the front and laser scanners on the roof and around the front and rear bumpers. The vehicle can recognize other cars on the road,pedestrians,buildings and trees up to 70 meters around it and even see if the traffic lights ahead are red or green and react accordingly. Electronic commands are sent directly to the accelerator and brake pedals, as well as the steering wheel. The vehicle uses GPS to navigate streets, while six laser scanners provide a 360-degree view of the area around the car and detect pedestrians and other obstacles.

“MadeInGermany” a modified Volkswagen Passat Wagon

A black-and-white video camera behind the rearview mirror detects the lines on the road and keeps the vehicle centred in its current lane. Two colour cameras, meanwhile, are used to identify traffic lights. Autonomos Labs says MadeInGermany successfully processed 46 traffic lights during its four runs in Berlin. 2011Although the Passat Wagon is controlled by computers, a human driver still has to sit behind the wheel for safety reasons. He or she can take control of the vehicle at any time by pressing the brake pedal. This causes all the computers to disconnect. Autonomos Labs says it’s next goal is to drive MadeInGermany across different European cities. The researchers there believe driving autonomously on public highways could become acceptable within the next ten to fifteen years.

Ideally,the car will respond to orders by the remote control,for example on an iPod or an iPhone.With a click or a touch,the passenger can call the car to his personal location and then order the car to drop him off at his desired destination.

Several  other groups have also been working on the same technology recently,notably Google,which has been testing a robotic Toyota Prius in Neveda.

The Google Driverless Car is a project by Google that involves developing technology for driverless cars. The project is currently being led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of Google Street View, whose team at Stanford created the robotic vehicle Stanley which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and its US$2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense.

This colourful image is what the car sensor’s see

The system combines information gathered from Google Street View with artificial intelligence software that combines input from video cameras inside the car, a LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging, also LADAR)sensor on top of the vehicle, radar sensors on the front of the vehicle and a position sensor attached to one of the rear wheels that helps locate the car’s position on the map. As of 2010, Google has tested several vehicles equipped with the system, driving 1,000 miles (1,600 km) without any human intervention, in addition to 140,000 miles (230,000 km) with occasional human intervention, with one of two accidents occurring when another car crashed into the rear end of a test vehicle that was stopped at a red light. Google anticipates that the increased accuracy of its automated driving system could help reduce the number of traffic-related injuries and deaths, while using energy and space on roadways more efficiently. The project team has equipped a test fleet of seven vehicles, consisting of six  Toyota Prii and an Audi TT, each accompanied in the driver’s seat by one of a dozen drivers with unblemished driving records and in the passenger seat by one of Google’s engineers. The car has traversed San Francisco’s Lombard Street, famed for its steep hairpin turns and through city traffic. The vehicles have driven over the Golden Gate Bridge and on the Pacific Coast Highway, and have circled Lake Tahoe .The system drives at the speed limit it has stored on its maps and maintains its distance from other vehicles using its system of sensors.  The Nevada Legislature passed a law in June 2011 to authorize the use of autonomous vehicles. Nevada became the first state where driverless vehicles can be legally operated on public roads. The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) is now responsible for setting safety and performance standards and for designating areas where driverless cars may be tested.

Toyota Prius modified to operate as Google Driverless Car.

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However apart from driverless cars,todays cars are partially computer-controlled,for example when it comes to parking,emergency brake,etc.

Lets now discuss  some of these technologies….

ANTI-LOCK BRAKING SYSTEM

When a car is braking hard and doesn’t have anti-lock brakes, the wheels can lock up, sending the car into an out-of-control skid. In a car without anti-lock brakes, the driver has to pump the brake pedal to keep the wheels from locking up. With anti-lock brakes, the system does the pumping for the driver — and does it better than the driver. The system can read the wheels and knows when they are about to lock and react faster and with a more appropriate response than a driver could. Anti-lock brakes are one of the first technologies that take cars in a driverless direction.

STABILITY CONTROL

Another type of driverless system is traction or stability control. These systems are so transparent that usually only professional drivers recognize when they’ve taken control. Like anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control react better than a driver ever could. Unlike anti-lock brakes, these systems are very complicated and use multiple systems within the car to keep the driver from losing control.

Stability and traction control are systems that can detect when a car might go into an out-of-control skid or roll over and work to prevent that from happening. The systems are constantly reading the car’s direction, speed and how well each wheel is connecting to the road. When it detects the car going out of control or starting to roll, stability or traction control will step in. Unlike a driver, these systems can apply brakes and increase or decrease power to individual wheels, which is often better than brakes or power being applied to all four wheels. When working properly, the system gives just the right response, unlike drivers, who often over-correct during emergency maneuvers.

CRUISE CONTROL

Pre-safe systems are starting to become common in certain luxury car brands. The systems differ depending on the car, but what all have in common is that they can anticipate crashes and prepare the car to keep the occupants safe.

Take the example of the rear-end collision. In a car with a pre-safe system, an alarm might go off as the driver nears the stopped car. At the same time, the pre-safe system might start priming the brakes so that just touching the pedal will apply their full force. While all that’s going on, the car will start reducing engine power, which will slow the car and reduce the severity of the crash. Finally, if the system detects that a crash can’t be avoided, it will prepare the airbags for deployment and tighten all of the seat belts, keeping occupants safe. What’s really amazing is that it will do all that in less time than it takes the driver to slam on the brakes. Cruise control is another common driverless system that’s available in most cars. Cruise control keeps the car at a constant speed, set by the driver, without the driver constantly having to press the gas pedal. Cruise control isn’t completely driverless, however, because the driver must watch constantly for slower moving cars in his or her path.

Adaptive cruise control takes care of that. Though it’s currently available on only a few cars, it’s very simple. Using radar sensors on the front of the car, adaptive cruise control can tell when an object is in front of it and, if the object is moving, how fast it’s moving. When cruise control is set, adaptive cruise control will maintain a constant speed, but will also maintain a set distance between it and the car in front of it. That means that if you set adaptive cruise control at 60 miles per hour and come up on a car going 55 miles per hour, adaptive cruise control will automatically decrease your car’s speed and maintain a safe distance between the two cars.

Cruise control

SELF PARKING

It’s probably a good guess that if you’ve damaged a car, it wasn’t in a big accident but in a little parking fender bender. Parking is probably the least dangerous thing people can do in a car, but we still manage to mess it up anyway.

Drivers of the Lexus LS 460 L who opt for the car’s Advance Parking Guidance System don’t have those problems, though. The system uses sensors all around the car to guide it into a parallel parking space (yes, that means the driver takes his or her hands off the wheel and feet off the pedal). Of course, the system isn’t ready for a cameo on “Star Trek” just yet. Before it can work, the driver has to find a parking space, position the car next to it, and use the in-cabin navigation screen to tell the car where it should go. Also, the parking space needs to be 6 feet (1.8 meters) longer than the car (and the LS isn’t a short car). Still, the self-parking system is a big achievement in driverless car technology. With it, the car behaves like a driver might — reading the area around it, reacting accordingly and going safely from point A to point B. While it’s not the same as sitting back and relaxing while your car drives you home for the night, it’s the first step in that direction.

AUTOMATED GUIDED VEHICLE SYSTEMS

FROG(Free Ranging On Grid) technology is used in Automated Guided Vehicle Systems, which are, well, driverless cars.The technology is similar to the self- parking system ,but takes things further. FROG vehicles are equipped with a computer that contains a map of the area in which the vehicle operates. The vehicle starts from a known location and uses the map to determine the route to its destination. It counts wheel revolutions to figure out how far it has traveled (sort of how you might count steps to figure out how far you’ve walked). To check itself, the vehicle also uses various calibration points (electronic landmarks for the vehicle) in the area it works. This technology is already in use at some ports. FROG vehicles can be loaded with cargo then sent on their own to the unloading area. FROG can even be used in public transportation hubs. In these cases, passengers go to a stop and push a button — just like calling an elevator. When the FROG vehicle arrives, passengers get in and push a button for their destination — again, just like in an elevator. Using the on-board computer, map and calibration points, the FROG vehicle takes the passengers where they want to go. The problem with FROG technology is that it can be used only in a limited area.

Courtesy:auto.howstuffworks.com, wikipedia.org

Posted by

Sumanth (MGIT ECE 2nd year)

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