When I am sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, my mixed feelings of anger and frustration typically lead me to question, “What am I doing? There must be more to life than this.” In the not-so-distant future, though, you may just be able to take a quick nap or watch television or even a movie via your tablet or smartphone while completely still on a highway that is more like a parking lot, thanks to a self-driving vehicle.
Currently being tested at Oxford University by a team of researchers, the car with a brain all its own uses both lasers and cameras in order to commit a certain route to memory – say, for example, your daily commute to and from work. While there are other similar experiments currently underway, including one being powered by search giant Google that would require certain regulations to be changed in California before it could even start being tested, the Oxford RobotCar UK project has successfully progressed into the testing phase. However, it is only running in an environment that has been created from the ground up for this sole purpose across the pond in a park in the city of Oxfordshire.
"It's not like a racetrack - it's a light industrial site with roads and road markings," Professor Newman, one of the main researchers deeply invested in the project, said in a statement.
Image via BBC
Google vs. Oxford
One of the stark differences between Google’s U.S.-based invention and this project is that instead of requiring GPS, the Oxford vehicles actually can learn where they are based upon their familiarity with their surroundings. Also, its developers are pushing for the self-driving car to be cost-effective making it accessible to the individual with even the tightest budget.
Newman added, “The key word for us is that the car gains 'experiences.' The car is driven by a human, and it builds a 3D model of its environment."
What potential does this technological innovation have?
Back in January, TechZone360 Contributing Writer Ashok Bindra reported on the evolution of the driverless car industry and the fact that it may not be so far off that we witness the rise of Car-as-a-Service. What that basically means is that, rather than purchasing a vehicle outright, a driver can instead select to leverage a driverless vehicle by paying an annual subscription fee which can automatically renewed through a smartphone.
“In fact, a racecar enthusiast on a weekend can upgrade the driverless feature from a ‘commuter style’ to ‘race track style,’ allowing it to be driven at breakneck speeds on a racetrack.”
Pretty interesting if you ask me but it looks like only time will tell if these cars are safe enough to ever be officially released on the market. It is even more exciting to those of us who have been forced to suffer through stop and go traffic and wouldn’t ever possibly miss it if it were to end suddenly.
Edited by Alisen Downey