UNSW, GoGet working on self-driving car



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


  1. Can definitely see some public transport and taxi uses for this technology, as well as safety, but do you find it likely that people will ever stop wanting to drive themselves around? Having bought a car recently I can’t imagine it. Although for very long drives on your family trip I can imagine how nice it could be to just sit back and read a book, as long as you’re not the sort to get carsick anyway…

    • Have you spent time in gridlock lately? Autonomous cars can negotiate that better, especially if they can communicate with each other, while you sit back and read/watch TV/take a nap so you get to your destination relaxed instead of angry and hating the whole &#*@ing world.

      I do think, from reading this, that these guys are a but late to the game and desperately underfunded – Carnegie-Mellon fielded a car with ten times the tech around a decade ago. It’s a sad fact that we only have access to a tiny fraction of the scientific research budgets of the US – most researchers I know now live in the US where they can actually get some real science done, where people and universities and governments recognise that research takes money, where they would have been lucky to get access to $30k grants here but have $100,000 to million dollar budgets in the US. Sure, their economy is bigger, but most importantly the thinking is different.

      Until we change our thinking as a culture to recognise that the only possible sustainable future is based on new technologies and new ideas and start to proactively encourage, covet and value scientific research and development, innovative ideas and industries we will not only continue to decline economically but all our brightest and most creative people and companies will simply pick up and move to countries where they are appreciated.

    • I want the technology because I don’t trust any other drivers out there. People need to cede control of vehicles to technology simply because they cannot be trusted.
      Just this weekend a driver was caught on three occasions within a 24 hour period for high range drink driving. People like this should never have control of a vehicle, ever.

  2. Driverless cars will have massive impacts on our society.

    All jobs that require transportation of things will disappear over time. The commute will change all that time spend driving can be used for other things, sleeping, reading, playing a instrument, writing, meditaiton, communicating with friends/family, Entertainment.

    I look forward to the redesign of car shapes and their interiors, exciting times..

    Whilst Oz is late in the game i believe toyota said in 2017 they plan to have a self driving car on the market.

    GoGet are also in a great place for this type of tech, why own a car if you dont drive it? Just issue a request to GoGet or some other company and a available car will make its way to you. never need to look for parking woo thank you Nerds!

  3. Some more thoughts.

    Without any sort of car manufacturing industry anymore, anything that is developed here in Australia is just going to end up overseas, or retrofitted into existing cars.

    TrevorX makes a good point about cars communicating with one another and how that can benefit traffic immensely (may even be able to increase speed limits if everything on the road is autonomous). He also makes a good point about what is called “tall poppy syndrome” – a hatred of education and intellect. But the point I made was about another thing engrained in our culture (particularly because of our low density living) and that is the simple desire to own and drive your own car. Not having a license or a car almost makes you a second-citizen, and indeed, half of all work places you just can’t get to in a convenient fashion without a car and license. So the question is not so much “can it happen?” – of course it can – the question is more “will it happen?”

    One more thought I have is a little more… radical. Technology has boosted productivity, and you do see this in less need for jobs, and yet there is this expectation that everyone must work, that we must have full employment. If all of our work – including our driving – is going to become automated, this begs the question, does everyone really need to work? Someone has said it much better than I can:

    “We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”
    Richard Buckminster Fuller

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