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Computerised car drives itself around Berlin

The Local · 19 Sep 2011, 13:50

Published: 19 Sep 2011 13:50 GMT+02:00

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The researchers from Berlin’s Free University took nervous journalists for a ride in the Volkswagen Passat – a distant relative of the Beetle Herbie – at the weekend, calmly keeping their hands off the steering wheel.

The car – called ‘Made in Germany’ but known as the MiG – successfully negotiated its way along a 20-kilometre route through central Berlin traffic, including around 46 traffic lights and some of the biggest, busiest roundabouts in the city.

“We have had the permission since June and have taken multiple drives since then – we’ve driven more than 1,000 kilometres in the inner city traffic and on the city’s autobahn,” Tinosch Ganjineh, head of the AntoNOMOS project which developed the MiG, told The Local.

It is the first vehicle to receive permission from the city authorities to drive on public roads without a driver.

To get this, the research team worked with safety standards authority TÜV Nord Group, which required a human to be in the driving seat at all times – just for emergencies.

Yet although either Ganjineh or Daniel Göhring from the FU were in the car, the computer was responsible for driving: steering, overtaking, recognizing and responding to traffic situations and safely reaching its goal.

MiG’s computer is controlled by the Drive-by-Wire system operating the brake, accelerator and steering wheel, which can be taken over at any time by the person monitoring the wheel.

Laser scanners, radar and video cameras are used to see other cars and pedestrians while special software analyses the data, recognizes traffic situations and generates the necessary driving instructions.

The research team has worked on the MiG since 2007, starting at the university and then finding various sponsors to get the car driving itself around private property such as disused airports and factory grounds until after a one-and-a-half-year process, they got permission for test drives in real Berlin traffic.

“This is another step towards the mobility of the future,” said Dr. Raúl Rojas, FU professor of artificial intelligence and supervisor of the AutoNOMOS project.

Autonomous cars could be plausible on a wide-scale basis in 20 to 30 years, according to Ganjineh, and ideally, all automobiles would be outfitted with the computer programming within 40 years as technology costs decrease and public acceptance rises.

The research and successful test drives are not only pertinent to technology developments but will also lead to increased traffic safety, Ganjineh said.

According to the World Health Organisation, 1.2 million people die each year from traffic-related accidents, while an additional 20 to 50 million are injured.

The best solution, according to Ganjineh, is “to combine the person with the computer.”

He cited the death of a 23-year-old man who was hit by a car when he ran into the road while fleeing attackers in a central Berlin metro station at the weekend.

Such fatalities, he said, could be prevented through the introduction of the autonomous computer system.

Story continues below…

“The computer is much faster than a person (in reacting),” Ganjineh said.

He also said that long-distance trips on the autobahn could be made safer and less strenuous by introducing autonomous driving technology.

Scientists at the FU call MiG the “green car” of the future and see it as a prototype for autonomous taxis and car-sharing programmes that will help reduce the overall impact of personal transportation.

Erin Huggins

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:58 September 19, 2011 by freechoice
make sure the sensors are in tip top condition before driving off. faulty sensors caused the Air France crashed recently.
17:04 September 19, 2011 by derExDeutsche
This is my dream; my own virtual chauffeur who can drop me off where I want, then park its self. When I am done, I push a button and the car picks me back up and drives me and whoever I just met at the bar back home. Driving is so overrated. This would also make Trains and Tracks obsolete since roadways would act very similarly.
17:11 September 19, 2011 by lwexcel
What is the difference between this car and the automatic car that has been created by google?
18:23 September 19, 2011 by catjones
lwexcel...answer: made in germany.

If this were an American venture the germans would be up in arms.
19:37 September 19, 2011 by The-ex-pat
But I like driving.........................................
19:39 September 19, 2011 by Englishted
If it drives you but you are over the limit are you still drunk in charge?.
22:39 September 19, 2011 by Berliner Mauer
"The computer is much faster than a person (in reacting)..." To a degree but

inertia is still inertia. Slowing/stopping a vehicle still requires a certain amount of distance. A faster reaction will have still have consequences in ceratin cases.
22:52 September 19, 2011 by wood artist

While your observation about sensor maintenance is true, the information developed thus far regarding the Air France crash says that while the sensors were failing the flight crew did everything wrong in response to them. I think it's a poor analogy.

00:26 September 20, 2011 by ChrisRea
@ lwexcel #3

The Google car cannot drive through the city. It cannot capture the imagery and data necessary to allow the car to do things such as stop at red lights and observe speed limits and has problems dealing with weather.
00:43 September 24, 2011 by wenddiver
Teach it to fly, hang Hellfire Missiles from it and kill terrorists or put it on train tracks and call it a People Mover like at the air port or go back in time and call it a Google Car.
12:17 September 24, 2011 by notelove2
englishted my question exactly - sounds too good to be true, I can go to a party, drink as much as I like then the car drives me home!!!???!!!
15:47 September 29, 2011 by zeddriver
Of course as is the case with all things run by software. Stupid in equals stupid out. And what if the system fails. You must be in the drivers seat ready to take over. So there goes the theory about getting waisted or boinking a local trollop in the back while the car drives you home.
17:13 October 1, 2011 by Englishted

Here is a tip marry someone who doesn't drink.
02:25 October 8, 2011 by wenddiver
@Englisthed- Here is a tip marry someone who doesn't drink. Are you sure it isn't cheaper just to wreck the car? May I offer a friendly substitution of date somebody who doesn't drink?
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