The days of driving yourself around may be coming to an end sooner than we all might think! Ever since the automobile was first conceived people have had the shared dream of the day when cars would drive us around. A team of researchers at the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS) has modified an Audi TTS with computers and GPS receivers, creating a vehicle that could handle itself. This year the car will attempt to ascend Pikes Peak without a driver at race speeds. This Audi TTS currently holds the world land speed record at 130 mph for autonomously driven vehicles; the car’s computers understand things that the average human driver, shouldn’t, but does struggle with – the car knows how to drift, accelerate, brake, park, and more!
How does it work? The “captain” of the vehicle can utilize two different modes or can combine both options. Sensors detect the vehicle’s movement, comparing this data to external sensors that pick up objects. The computer uses pixel analyzing software in order to detect the lines in the road or the curb, then the data with the other external and motion sensors send the appropriate commands to the vehicle i.e. stop, accelerate, and turn information. On the race track it will be a little bit different because there will be other variables to factor in. One will need to program some of the necessary functions to complete the race track. It seems like one will need a basic understanding of geometry and physics to complete this task; factors like road camber, surface type, traction information, and corner radius are some of the many things that will need to be considered before top speed travel could take place.
It will probably be several years before the car will be ready for public use, but the dream is what matters at the end of the day. Not to mention the progress that has been achieved by VAIL (Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Laboratory) and CARS together, it is unbelievable how far they have come.