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Google's self-driving Shocking robo-Priuses

Posted by nasi On Wednesday, 12 October 2011 0 comments
Google's self-driving fleet of robot-Priuses

Google's self-driving fleet of robo-Priuses have been cruising around the San Francisco area for months now, logging over 190,000 miles. But until recently, the technology behind the autonomous cars had been kept secret. Last month, Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford professor and head of the project, and Google engineer Chris Urmson, delivered a keynote speech at the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in San Francisco, explaining how the car works.

 The "heart of the system" is its Velodyne 64-beam laser that sits on the roof of the Prius, creating the 3-D map of the surrounding environment. This 3-D image is combined with existing high resolution maps programmed into the car. Four radars (one for the front, back, left and right) are used to give the car far-sighted vision for handling high speeds on freeways. There's also a camera near the rear view mirror for monitoring stop lights. GPS, an inertial measurement unit, and wheel encoder keep track of where the car goes.

Once a secret project, Google's autonomous vehicles are now out in the open, quite literally, with the company test-driving them on public roads and, on one occasion, even inviting people to ride inside one of the robot cars as it raced around a closed course. Google's fleet of robotic Toyota Prius's has now logged more than 190,000 miles (about 300,000 kilometers), driving in city traffic, busy highways, and mountainous roads with only occasional human intervention. The project is still far from becoming commercially viable, but Google has set up a demonstration system on its campus, using driver less golf carts, which points to how the technology could change transportation even in the near future.
he vehicle also carries other sensors, which include: four radars, mounted on the front and rear bumpers, that allow the car to "see" far enough to be able to deal with fast traffic on freeways; a camera, positioned near the rear-view mirror, that detects traffic lights; and a GPS, inertial measurement unit, and wheel encoder, that determine the vehicle's location and keep track of its movements.
Two things seem particularly interesting about Google's approach. First, it relies on very detailed maps of the roads and terrain, something that Urmson said is essential to determine accurately where the car is. Using GPS-based techniques alone, he said, the location could be off by several meters.
The second thing is that, before sending the self-driving car on a road test, Google engineers drive along the route one or more times to gather data about the environment


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