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article imageDeveloping self-driving cars for country roads

By Tim Sandle     May 12, 2018 in Technology
Boston - Autonomous vehicles require intricate maps as part of their operations, which limits them to cities. A new system enables navigation with just GPS and sensors, a technology suitable for self-driving cars on country roads.
While good progress has been made with self-driving cars, the Uber-linked recent self-driving car fatality demonstrates that the technology is not yet ready for widespread adoption. A further limitation arises with there only being a few locales where self-driving cars can actually be driven. Here sector leaders like Google are only testing their vehicles within major U.S. cities; at the same time as undertaking detailed three-dimensional positions of lanes, curbs, off-ramps and stop signs. A new technology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology aims to democratize the routes that self-driving cars of the future can take, enabling self-driving vehicles to make out-of-town journeys.
The solution was to develop systems sufficiently advanced enough to navigate without the need for the detailed maps being constructed by Google and others. Scientists at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have created a platform called MapLite, which enables self-driving cars to traverse roads that the vehicles have never previously driven along, obviating the need for three-dimensional maps.
According to one of the researchers, Teddy Ort: "The reason this kind of 'map-less' approach hasn't really been done before is because it is generally much harder to reach the same accuracy and reliability as with detailed maps."
He adds: "A system like this that can navigate just with on-board sensors shows the potential of self-driving cars being able to actually handle roads beyond the small number that tech companies have mapped."
The MapLite platform takes simple GPS data and connects it with a series of sensors, fitted to the vehicle and which observe the road conditions. Bringing together these two functions has led to some successful tests where autonomous vehicles have driven along multiple unpaved country roads. The test point was in Devens, Massachusetts.
The trials showed the test vehicle, which was a Toyota Prius that they outfitted with a range of LIDAR and IMU sensors, could be driven consistently and safely. This provides the springboard for further developments.
More about selfdriving cars, autonomous cars, gps tracker
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