‘Intelligent co-pilot’ makes driving safer

July 15th, 2012 - 6:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 15 (IANS) Scientists have now developed a new system for cars that can steer a vehicle to safety just in time.

The safety system, known as a co-pilot, was developed by Sterling Anderson, doctoral student in mechanical engineer at the MIT and Karl Iagnemma, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Robotic Mobility Group.It uses an on-board camera and laser range finder to identify hazards in a vehicle’s environment.

The team devised an algorithm to analyze the data and identify safe zones - avoiding, for example, other vehicles speeding in the opposite direction.

The system allows a driver to control the vehicle, only taking the wheel when the driver is about to enter a hazardous zone, said a university statement.

Anderson, who has been testing the system in Michigan since last September, describes it as an “intelligent co-pilot” that monitors a driver’s performance and makes behind-the-scenes adjustments to keep the vehicle from colliding with obstacles, or within a safe region of the environment, such as a lane or open area.

“The real innovation is enabling the car to share (control) with you,” Anderson says. “If you want to drive, it’ll just. . . make sure you don’t hit anything.”

The group presented details of the safety system recently at the Intelligent Vehicles Symposium in Spain.

Robotics research has focused in recent years on developing systems - from cars to medical equipment to industrial machinery - that can be controlled by either robots or humans. For the most part, such systems operate along pre-programmed paths.

So far, the team has run more than 1,200 trials of the system, with few collisions; most of these occurred when glitches in the vehicle’s camera failed to identify an obstacle. For the most part, the system has successfully helped drivers avoid collisions.

Benjamin Saltsman, manager of intelligent truck vehicle technology and innovation at Eaton Corp., says the system has several advantages over fully autonomous variants such as the self-driving cars developed by Google and Ford.

Such systems, he says, are loaded with expensive sensors, and require vast amounts of computation to plan out safe routes.

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