TU to develop robot car

Always wanted to read your newspaper or enjoy breakfast while driving to work? Autonomous cars might hold this in store and TU Delft is planning to make such a car.

Snow, rain, fog, dust clouds. The four autonomous cars, tiny Piaggio vans with sensors to perceive the environment, that travelled 13,000 kilometres in convoy from Parma (Italy) to Shanghai (China) in 2010 endured it all. Worst of all, though, was the behaviour of other road users in cities like Moscow and Shanghai. “We often had to grab the wheel”, the leader of this remarkable expedition, Alberto Broggi, said last Thursday to a large audience of mostly students at the faculty of Civil Engineering and Geoscience. Broggi, who is a professor of Computer Engineering at the University of Parma, gave a lecture about his work on artificial vision for autonomous vehicles and about his 2010 expedition. And he also came to announce that he and his laboratory, VisLab, are going to collaborate with researchers of the TU Delft Robotics Institute. In November this year this collaboration should result in an autonomous car.

Delft robotic expert, Prof. Pieter Jonker (MMME faculty) said that he believes that the technique Broggi is working on, which involves stereo cameras instead of laser systems to monitor the surroundings, holds the future. “We want to continue down that path.” Contrary to the previous cars Broggi made, the researchers will now put a lot of effort on devising haptic feedback systems for the car, Jonker adds. In other words, the communication between the passenger/ driver and the car needs to be ameliorated. The car should be designed to support smooth transitions between automated and manual control.

“Ultimately of course we would like to have a car with just one button”, says Broggi. “You press on it and the car does all the rest. But for now that is impossible. We believe it will be possible to use autonomous cars within a decade in special situations, on reserved motorway lanes.”

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