Autonomous Vehicles

Published on February 27th, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown


Self-Driving Nissan Leaf Controlled From iPad (4 VIDEOS)

February 27th, 2013 by  

Remember the days when handmade items were considered superior to machine-made ones? Maybe the same switch will occur with driving.

Following Google’s early lead in self-driving vehicles, and adding a twist, Oxford University is testing a driverless Nissan Leaf electric vehicle. It is controlled by an iPad which enables a person to take over the car or switch to “auto drive,” which permits the robot system to drive itself. Check out these videos below, followed by more text.

The system is being tested in Begbroke Science Park, near Oxford. The next stage of research involves teaching the robot to understand complex traffic flows, and to decide the best routes to take, according to Dr. Ingmar Posner, who is co-leading the project

Self-driving cars have been under development for a while, and they do work. However, would they actually provide a net safety benefit?

Automation in general has come a long way, and is now, in many cases, very accurately done. Factory machinery now achieves unparalleled consistency and high accuracy. A factory machine can be like having the perfect employee that never slacks off, and always exercises the best practices, no matter how tedious they may be.

But let us explore the safety of this concept by first considering the nature of most automobile accidents. They are often caused by inattention in various ways. An intentional failure to pay attention when text messaging; an inevitable loss of attention even when doing nothing; interruption of attention caused by phone calls; loud, distracting music; reduced attention due to high levels of alcohol in the body; and much more.

An automated system always “pays attention,” and can actually watch all sides of the car, unlike people. It also has potential efficiency benefits. Robots are not temperamental — they can drive at consistent, lower speeds for a longer time than many people can without getting frustrated. This is a highly efficient way to drive, and a way to extend vehicle range.

Will self-driving cars provide all these benefits without adding notable downsides? What do you think?

Source: Autoblog Green

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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is:

  • Conrad Clement

    “The next stage of research involves teaching the robot to understand complex traffic flows”.

    Jumping from primitive to extraordinarily complex in just two stages? It’s a hoax.

    The aim of these videos (and those of the DARPA and Google) is to make you believe that automatic driving announces a brilliant future to the motorcar — and to divert you from the reality of automated flying which is long-standing state-of-the-art, because the anglo-saxon would-be rulers of the world are afraid of the perspective of the civil society taking possession of the global airspace with myriads of personal ultra-light electric rotary-wing (tilt-rotor) aircraft, thus threatening to challenge their power enforcement joker, i.e., the supersonic fighter-bombers and, increasingly, their drones.

    Are you sure the driver doesn’t steer the car with his feet?

  • tibi stibi

    oTis11 is right, there are many benefits which will increase when not only the cars get smart but the traffic light too. so a car will know when it will turn green. and when other cars get smart so the can signal, it will need to stop.

  • Otis11

    There have also been studies that show significant efficiency increases due to the car’s ability to decide what gear is best based on current conditions and even leaning out the fuel mixture to get better mileage for the times when you won’t have to accelerate rapidly. They can also draft much more efficiently, accelerate at the exact optimal rate, brake at the optimal rate (especially useful for hybrids/EVs) and aid in traffic flow to reduce congestion!

    And both efficiency and congention benefits improve as more self driving cars get on the road! There are many, many benefits to this… not even to mention the number of lives saved! Hope it comes sooner than later!

    “intentional failure to pay attention” => Let me guess, you’re from the Department of Redundancy Department? I prefer the Ministry of Silly Walks myself, but to each their own…

    “attention to to” => “attention due to”

    • Cool stuff.

      “intentional failure to pay attention” — that one threw me off for a second, but then realized how he was distinguishing between chosen lack of attention and unchosen lack of attention.

      “to to” was my fault. 😛 corrected.

      • Otis11

        “intentional failure to pay attention” => ah, my mistake, I read that to quickly! (See, even I’m not perfect. =-P )

        And yeah – one study done in Spain DEMONSTRATED at 30% rise in fuel economy by changing to a computer controlled car…

        • Wow, that’s huge. It looks like self-driving cars should definitely be categorized as cleantech & covered here. You have a link to that study? (Imagine a quick google search could pull it up anyway.)

          • Otis11

            Ah, that’s what I get for not having the source ready…I can’t find the article that showed they beat their predicted fuel economy slightly (which was predicted at 20%, so I think I was a bit off) but here’s one article covering it:

            Also, this initial phase was done with all ICE vehicles, it would have more of an effect with HEVs/EVs.

            Self Driving cars definitely do have a huge clean tech advantage though… plus make it more convenient for the user.

          • Thanks. Appreciate it. Just wanted to have it handy for any future articles about self-driving vehicles.

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