Robot car closes on driver track times


A self-driving car is coming close to beating human drivers round a race-track, according to the California university that's developed it.

The car is a standard 265hp Audi TT S dubbed Shelley with of host of extra computing power in its boot. It's the creation of the Centre for Automotive Research at Standard University (CARS, handily), and it has already driven itself up the Pikes Peak course and reached 120mph on track.

The idea is not to create a robot race series, says Professor Chris Gerdes, head of the CARS lab, but to use the info to make cars safer. "If we can figure out how to get Shelley out of trouble on a race track, we can get out of trouble on ice," Gerdes said.

TT takes itself off for some track playtime
TT takes itself off for some track playtime
Shelley, named for Pikes Peak winner and Audi Quattro driving rally hero Michele Mouton, is equipped with a smart GPS that knows where it is to the nearest 2cm. Radar and laser sensors also help position it on the racetrack, with further information coming from the usual array of electronic feedback standard on many cars these days, such as yaw rate detectors and wheel-speed sensors showing tyre grip.

So far drivers have still proved that bit faster, although the gap is closing to within seconds, according to the team. "Human drivers are very, very smooth," Gerdes said. 

He said the car is less good at feeling where its limits lie, while the best drivers know that the quickest way round a corner on the limit might be to use the throttle as well as the steering. Or that going too wide on one corner might better set them up for the next.

The track they've been using is the Thunderhill circuit north of Sacramento but to better understand how humans drive fast they've strapped monitoring systems to a driver at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion race at Laguna Seca. They also harvested data from the car, a 1966 Ford GT40.

"We need to know what the best drivers do that makes them so successful," Gerdes says. "If we can pair that with the vehicle dynamics data, we can better use the car's capabilities.

The idea of autonomous cars might not be your idea of progress, so take comfort in a line from Gerdes himself back in October. Self driving cars, he said, have been "20 years in the future ever since about 1939".

 

P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (83) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Mr Whippy 08 Nov 2012

    ant leigh said:
    Mr Whippy said:
    I think we will see computers being better at everything eventually, even better at us from technical thinking through to creative processes. We will literally be inferior brains in bags of mostly water that have given birth to an intelligence that will out-last us.
    What that means for us is beyond my knowledge... I just keep thinking back to "The second renaissance" video from The Animatrix...

    Dave
    Maybe not. The human brain, despite having a smaller theoretical processing capability, is still capable of producing superior results to computers in any area where the answer is not based on solving mathematical formula's created and pre-programmed into the computer by humans.

    Perhaps the future lies in 'connecting' increased artificial memory storage and simple additional processing to the vastly superior organic computers we all have.
    The results are probably just a function of genetic programming, and the 'feeding' of our neural network as we grow old.

    With conventional computers/computing, I agree there is no way they will ever be able to do anything except what we clumsily ask them to do via programming languages and explicit responses to inputs.

    But at some point we will have the processing power and memory capacity to just let computers do their own thing and breed promising iterations of AI.


    If quantum computing really takes off in the next 10yrs, then I bet we'll see lots of pretty mind-boggling amazing stuff coming from computers by 2050... whether we then apply it to the world around us is another thing.


    But until a computer can basically go off, find out how to do something, and come back and do it, then they are not really intelligent or worth bothering with for tasks that humans should be able to do already... like driving.

    We are too easily giving in to letting computers do tasks we can still easily do, and for what benefit? So we can be fatter and lazier?
    Driving is a fun past time and something you can take pleasure in being good at. What next, robots to clean your home hehe

    Dave

  • V8RX7 07 Nov 2012

    405dogvan said:
    Back in 2008, DARPA had a robot which did this - they're now producing this thing for military applications, it can follow troops and navigate terrain carrying heavy loads

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1czBcnX1Ww

    Right now they're making this - and soon, it will come looking for you - and you're screwed...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embed...
    I freely admit I don't follow this stuff but is this REALLY the best available ?

    That's shockingly st.

    (Yes I said the same about ZX81 etc and look where that lead so I have no doubt in time they will be very capable)

  • renrut 07 Nov 2012

    The parallels between this and Chess are quite staggering, for years people said computers couldn't do it and then along came Deep Blue and suddenly it was just about how much memory and processing power you could throw at it, hence why its only a matter of time and money.

    Afterall humans are just very very advanced computers capable of huge parallel processing tasks, on the fly accurate approximations to real world conditions and hugely adaptive to different tasks. The difference is if you were to start re-wiring humans to do a particular job better there might be complaints...

  • thinfourth2 07 Nov 2012

    Don't forget a computer could also overcome the basic limitation a human has of 2 hands and 2 feet

    Get a computer to control all 4 wheels individually and it has another advantage

  • ant leigh 07 Nov 2012

    Mr Whippy said:
    I think we will see computers being better at everything eventually, even better at us from technical thinking through to creative processes. We will literally be inferior brains in bags of mostly water that have given birth to an intelligence that will out-last us.
    What that means for us is beyond my knowledge... I just keep thinking back to "The second renaissance" video from The Animatrix...

    Dave
    Maybe not. The human brain, despite having a smaller theoretical processing capability, is still capable of producing superior results to computers in any area where the answer is not based on solving mathematical formula's created and pre-programmed into the computer by humans.

    Perhaps the future lies in 'connecting' increased artificial memory storage and simple additional processing to the vastly superior organic computers we all have.

View all comments in the forums Make a comment