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N.C. State prototype car steers itself

Posted April 14, 2010

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— Remember the 1960s TV cartoon "The Jetsons" and George Jetson having the option to steer his space car or to let a computer steer for him?

Students at North Carolina State University's College of Engineering have developed a computer program that allows a vehicle to do just that – and that could mean saving a life in the event of an emergency.

Using a miniature motorized children's Jeep, they placed a video camera on the front that feeds images to a laptop that sits on the back. The program detects and maps the road on which the vehicle is traveling.

NCSU prototype car The future of auto safety?

The computer then controls equipment in the Jeep to adjust the steering and speed to keep it on path. It also recognizes stop signs and obstructions and sends a command for the vehicle to stop.

Wesley Snyder, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, says the research could become the next generation of auto safety, with features that can allow vehicles to stay in their lanes, avoid traffic and gracefully react to emergency situations.

"This can help protect not only the car that has the safety feature, but other drivers on the road as well," he said.

The software could also serve useful for the military when it comes to reconnaissance or transporting materials, he says.

Snyder and his team will present a paper describing their research next month in Anchorage, Alaska, at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.

They will also begin testing the program in real vehicles, with the computer program giving directions to a human driver.


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  • momeeee Apr 15, 2010

    Way to go NCSU Engineering!

  • sggoodri Apr 15, 2010

    I like to see that the hardware required for such research is getting less expensive and easier to integrate. Back when I did autonomous mobile robot research at NCSU (1991-1994) the hardware cost many tens of thousands of dollars, weighed several hundred pounds, and couldn't do half of the vision processing that this car can.

  • jprime Apr 15, 2010

    "Won't happen in many lifetimes."

    With major technological advancements, you have to walk before you can crawl. I think its more important to point out that this is work being done by college students, not people in the industry for years. Go state engineering!

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Apr 14, 2010

    Good one, lizard. But seriously, isn't this like reinventing the wheel? Haven't these cars already been designed many years ago? I seem to remember a car that could follow certain lines or markers on the highway. Yes, I know, this is an advancement due to it using video imaging. But before anything like this can be put in operation, the highway system would have to undergo an even more strict standardization. Won't happen in many lifetimes.

  • lizard Apr 14, 2010

    I believe I've seen some of these cars being operated on the beltline. At least they're being operated like no one is really steering.