Race To Build Driverless Cars Is In Full Throttle


Khedkar, the UMKC graduate student, has developed a software program that he hopes will enable cars to continuously talk to each other when approaching intersections. Using remote-controlled model Ferraris he bought at Toys R Us, he intends to develop a working prototype by late summer.

“The software is ready to go,” said Khedkar, a computer-science major. “We’re seeing now how the hardware responds to perform exactly what the software tells it to do.”

On that front, Khedkar and his professor, Vijay Kumar, concede they’ve a hill to climb.

But their ultimate fantasy features flocks of cars flowing, slowing down and turning corners in concert, each knowing what the other vehicles are thinking.

“We don’t want, at the moment, to make a driverless car,” said Kumar. “We just want to solve the problem of the traffic light.”

If all vehicles carried the software system of Khedkar’s dreams, traffic lights would be unnecessary.

(“When I’m driving home late from a movie and stopped at a red light, waiting, and there’s nobody around? I hate that,” he said.) Intersections would be freed from human impulse and serendipity – “no ambiguity, no confusion” – as cars know and respect each other’s intentions.

Sylvester, the founder of Integrated Roadways, sees solutions in the pavement.

He is developing pre-cast sections of road armed with sensors. For the time being, he said, the sensors would monitor roadway stress and ice conditions, and he’s already filled orders for the Kansas Department of Transportation for portions of Interstate 35.

In Sylvester’s plans, coming generations of pavement would record traffic patterns, signal to emergency crews when a wreck happens, and have interspaced “charging pads” that provide a jolt of power to electric cars driving over them.

The driverless age ultimately would allow these in-road sensors to communicate with cars, navigating them away from hazards.

And Sylvester said that prospect needn’t cost consumers a fortune.

“If we can increase safety…everyone deserves to have access,” he said. “Most of this technology has already been developed” and he foresees the software systems enabling cars to decipher roadway commands to be “something you could get at Best Buy for a couple hundred dollars.”

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Posted by on May 1st, 2013 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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