Robotic technology developed by England’s Oxford University is working alongside the iPad to enable an electric Nissan Leaf to drive itself. Apple’s tablet is built into the vehicle’s dashboard, and can be used to activate the robotic technology that will take over the vehicle for short stretches.
The clever system, which is designed to take the strain off of drivers during busy commutes, uses small cameras and lasers built discretely into the body of the car that allow it to recognize its surroundings and avoid collisions.
The new technology is low-cost, according to Oxford University, and aims to provide us with a glimpse at what the car of the future might be like. It learns routes you regularly take — such as the drive into the office or the morning school run — then uses an iPad fitted to the dashboard to ask whether you’d like the car to take over for a short period on a familiar route.
Touching the iPad’s display activates “auto drive,” and then the robotic system takes over. Tapping the brake pedal returns control to the driver at any time. See the magic in action in the video below.
“We are working on a low-cost ‘auto drive’ navigation system, that doesn’t depend on GPS, done with discreet sensors that are getting cheaper all the time. It’s easy to imagine that this kind of technology could be in a car you could buy,” said Professor Paul Newman of Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science.
“Instead of imagining some cars driving themselves all of the time we should imagine a time when all cars can drive themselves some of the time,” Professor Newman said. “The sort of very low cost, low footprint autonomy we are developing is what’s needed for everyday use.”
Automated technology has already made its way into production vehicles, of course, allowing modern vehicles from the likes of Ford to park themselves into tight spots without any input from the driver. Oxford believes its new technology could be the next innovation that revolutionizes the driving experience — and it won’t cost you much.
The prototype navigation system seen in the video above currently costs around £5,000 (approx. $7,517). But Oxford hopes to bring that down to just £100 (approx. $150) by the time the system is ready for use on the road.