news Researchers at the University of New South Wales have taken the first step towards creating a self-driving car by fitting sensors and other technology to a vehicle owned by car sharing service GoGet.
The car, which is based at UNSW’s Kensington campus in Sydney, has been fitted with four radar sensors, a video camera and a small on-board computer. It will be publicly launched at the GeoNext technology conference at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney today.
The project is an industry partnership between the UNSW Research Centre for Integrated Transport Innovation (rCITI) and GoGet. rCITI, which focuses on integrated transport research and development, secured a grant from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering to buy the technology systems fitted to the vehicle.
“We’ve put sensors all around the vehicle and mounted a video camera to detect pedestrians, bicycles, other cars and roadside infrastructure,” rCITI’s deputy director Vinayak Dixit explains. “We’re getting information about how people drive and how they interact with different moving entities as well as other infrastructure. This information is extremely useful when you’re trying to develop algorithms for autonomous driving.”
GoGet’s co-founders Nic Lowe and Bruce Jeffreys “are excited by technology and new ideas,” Dixit says.
In addition to powering research on self-driving cars, Dixit also sees an opportunity to use the data collected by the sensors to explore the feasibility of real-time charging schemes for car insurance. The theory is that safe drivers — as determined from data captured by the vehicle — would be rewarded by paying less for their insurance.
“What we really want to move towards is real-time insurance, where the driver’s rates depend on how they drive at that moment,” Dixit explains. “Unfortunately what has happened over the past half-decade is the responsibility of safety and efficiency of the transport system has fallen on governments, but there are huge private industries who can actually play a role in improvements. “I’m trying to find ways to foster those improvements.”
The effort is not the only driverless car effort being developed globally. Search giant Google has been testing driverless cars in the US for several years. The US state of Nevada, in particular, has already passed legislation allowing the operation of autonomous cars in the state, and Florida and California have followed.
Great to see this kind of innovation happening in Australia; it turns out that Google is not the only organisation which is working on making our cars intelligent. Now if only we could recover the long-lost Matrix of Leadership, we would really be making some progress towards the point where need to be for real progress. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere. Hey, a geek can dream!
Image credit: UNSW