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robocars and autodrive technology

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posted on Jul, 13 2008 @ 11:38 AM
Sci-fi, drunk driving, speeding, traffic accidents have all contributed to the challenge of developing autodrive cars. For years, autodrive technology has been growing very slowly, but making progress. It seems that through the use of GPS, ground and surrounding sensors to maintain their current location as it changes and avoid obstacles, the progress is being made slowly.

I have been thinking about this for a while and would like some input from the more intelligent among you. I would like to note that I may be way off on my thinking, which is why I am posting this for debate.

First, for item encounters, vehicles already use an array of proximity sensors that set off warning bells if something is picked up too close. For this, just expand on the number of sensors. Front, rear and side obstacle sensors in the bumpers and side trim of the vehicle would give plenty of warning when there is an obstacle. The sensitivity settings are adjustable, so through testing, a desireable level could be achieved.
Next, location location location. All landspace has been mapped out for the global positioning system and as a former soldier I can tell you that it has been mapped down to a square foot. GPS is very reliable in modern times and computers, phones, PDAs all can tell you exactly where you are at any given moment based on this system. As well, road mapping is about 80% current at any given 6 month period. Such devices as TomTom and Garmin update more often. Combining current roadway techonoloy and GPS would allow for mostly accurate planning. The final straw would be dynamic recording of roadways not currently in the system, which is also very possible.
Finally, you have to control the entire operation. Vehicles are already controlled by sophisticated computers today. Lets take that a step further. The current navigation systems already developed could be added to the memory bank. The autodrive navigation program would consist of all of the plotted GPS coordinates (a relatively small numerical data file), the already in existance road navigation system and what I call the countdown program. Once a route is planned, the computer compares the starting grid point with the destination grid point. The road navigation computer plots the path as laid out by the roadway system and the data collected from DoT would list all of the GPS grid points, speed limits associated with each grid point and current construction projects through those grid points (all done via internet download). The computer now plots a best scenario from start to finish, incorporating all of this data into the autodrive dynamics.

How does this all come together? Well, in the beginning, I would suggest this system for the inter/intra state system. Most all states use the "look out brail" along with the colored lines that seperate traffic lanes and the roadway shoulders. Why not incorporate these items into the system. Each bump could be fitted with an emitter that did nothing but broadcast its GPS coordinate. A bumper receiver would gather this data in rapid fire succession as it passed each one and that would be added to the trip equation, as well as help maintain the vehicle in a single lane of traffic. The solid and dotted line paint could have a reflective enhancement that was also noticed by a small magnetic sensor in each corner to assist with this lane steadying. Now, there needs to be an enhancement to the navigation device technology. Not only can a pre-mapped route be planned based on the recorded data, but through cooperation with the state DoT, the bump data would need to be recorded into the trip planning. All of those coordinates are lined out in the computers trip navigation system and checked off one by one as they are achieved. The onboard computer grids out the entire route and as it passes each bump and picks up the GPS emittion, it takes it out of the equation and progresses on to the next until the route expires.

posted on Jul, 13 2008 @ 11:58 AM
The RF node concept you refer to is one that's actually on the tables.

Paint lines, not so much. Most places in North America get snow. Which makes paint lines useless, however, RF Nodes aren't deterred by weather conditions. And I like the fact that you said they transmit their own GPS co-ordinate, thats good, because imagine the road havoc on a stormy day when the GPS signals just aren't up linking quite right.
... Or the havoc that would ensue if a GPS satellite drifted from orbit... woah, look at all those cars drive into the ditch.

You are correct. It will take a combination of allot of systems, all working together. But as it stands at the moment, nothing beats a pair of eyes.

... which is exactly what those robotic car challenges are about, getting them to drive visually by themselves, rather than to rely on pre-placed markers.

It's certainly an area that needs further work, and will provide promising results in the future. It's not ready yet, but it's certainly a step we're not going to miss.

posted on Jul, 13 2008 @ 11:59 AM

As to the tech involved, robotics already use grid points to move from micropoints to micropoints. They also use magnetic and emission technology to guide themselves along pre-designed routes and perform functions based on the received data. So, this is current technology being incorporated on a grander scale.
The department of transportation already posts construction planning on most all of their websites as well as road conditions and construction projects. Why not just make this a downloadable file that the computer can deconstruct into the "countdown program" for trip planning?
Such devices as TomTom and Garmin already can tell you the "best scenario" for driving from one place to another just about anywhere they are sold. So that is considered current technology also.
Onboard computers in automobiles are sophisticated enough to tell you everything that is going on within your vehicle at any given moment for years and they are only getting better. It is not a far stretch to beef these up a bit to handle the planning stages.
Autodrive capability is current technology that is growing quickly. They are experimenting with it at most of the major scientific colleges and DoD to continue to enhance its capabilities.

Flaw number one would be the road bumps and the protection of the GPS emitters. While these little reflective bumps are very durable (evident since they continue to reflect and "bump" after years of abuse), but would the components inside hold up to the extremes?
Flaw number two would be (in the beginning) switching between auto and manual drive. As the program is being developed, there would have to be periods of manual driving to get into the autodrive system. How dangerous would the moments between each scenario be? Moreso for some than others. In the beginning, it would also be harsh as not all vehicles would be on the autodrive technology, so until you take the human factor (speeding, quick lane changes, sudden braking, swerving, etc) off of the roadway, you have a reciepe for disaster.
Next, a lot of the tech relies on the constant cooperation of a government funded agency and their ability to keep data up to date and ready for download at any given time. This is bad enough without any other hazards already in place.

These are all adaptation problems...growing pains, if you will...that are faced anytime a significant change is attempted or put into action.


I would like to note that I have simplified a great portion of this, mainly because a lot of the tech already exists, some of which I work with on a daily basis. But feel free to get as technical as you like in debate for or against this idea.
I look forward to the opinions here.

posted on Jul, 13 2008 @ 12:09 PM
reply to post by johnsky

I agree that it has a long way to go. I had originally thought out a much more indepth system, but I am not sure it would work to help with the eyes. As fast as computers are, I dont think they have the driving reaction of a sober, attentive human.
Originally, the bumps would not only transmit their signal, but would also prompt in miliseconds the last pass of a vehicle based on micro-side sensors that record movement and rebroadcast that as well within a range of 3-4 seconds (a large enough gap between vehicles to allow for safe driving). It would broadcast every millisecond on a counter until that side sensor caught another pass signal and start over. This could be added to the program, telling the vehicle how far ahead of it the next vehicle is. A minimum security program could be used to maintain optimal distance between vehicles.
However, that is probably a bit to much to put into the program anytime soon.

As to the covering of roads, yes, the emitters would handle that well. The reflective paint is jus an added security feature in good conditions.

Thanks for the reply.

posted on Jul, 13 2008 @ 12:21 PM
I enjoy actually driving my car, I have never had the need for gps. I would never get in a car with this junk let alone pay for it.

posted on Jul, 13 2008 @ 12:51 PM
The place I work at has a combitruck.

It can also follow lines and drive automatic with rfid technology.

so it is already in use, pretty neat stuff though.

posted on Jul, 13 2008 @ 02:39 PM
reply to post by wheresthetruth

Oh, it's not the reaction time computers are lacking, in fact, they can react much quicker than any human. It's the awareness of it's surroundings it's lacking at the moment, that, and it's ability to create a logical response to those factors.

Once thats there, the difficult part is done. After that, it's just a matter of standardizing the systems so all future cars can use it.

Funny thing is, the cars we drive today don't really need all that much modding beyond the sensors and the guidance system. Most cars are so heavily computerized, that it's already dead simple to turn a car into a remote controlled toy.

The power steering, throttle, ABS, all of this is electronically controlled nowadays.

posted on Jul, 14 2008 @ 12:19 PM
I saw a show about this on the Science channel or something. They were saying that the technology is all already available, between radar/sonar, GPS, the use of magnets in road reflectors. The show I was watching showed a prototype highway that had been created in California with drivers making the commute daily using auto-drive vehicles. The drivers were forced to sit behind the steering wheel, and could take control at anytime, but most were seen reading the newspaper or relaxing while riding. I found this link, and the story looks older than what I had seen but it is similar. Self Drive Car test highway

posted on Jul, 14 2008 @ 05:11 PM
As long as the auto drive system can be turned off at will, it would not bother me too much. I do not like giving my control over to a machine.

What if an 18 wheeler's tire suddenly comes off? (I've actually seen this happen on the interstate, it didn't blow it just disconnected from the hub and kept on rolling, slowly crossing the lanes on the interstate) It seems like it would be difficult for a computer controlled system to react to this.

I am glad the tech that's developing is individual (as in each car is not connected to other cars). If they were all connected to a central hub, it seems easy for an hack/attack to occur that would harm many people.

I drive a manual transmission becasue I like the control over my vehicle. I just don't like the idea of a car driving me.

Interesting thread, though.

[edit on 7/14/2008 by madhatter3113]

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