In the right weather, getting around outside isn’t so hard for a self-driving car. GPS, LiDAR, other sensors and pre-built maps come together to make the magic happen.
Indoors is different. GPS might fail. The quality of the light could plummet. And pre-assembling a map of, for example, every parking garage would pose a number of challenges.
You’re probably thinking, “Oh, that’s easy. Just use micro-variations in the Earth’s magnetic field.”
DARPA’s Micro-PNT (Micro-Technology for Positioning, Navigation and Timing) does just that. The Brits have their own version they call a “quantum compass.” The technology takes advantage of the fact that “super-cooled, low-energy atoms are extremely sensitive to changes in the Earth’s magnetic and gravitational field.” Thus: Location snared and no GPS satellite needed; that’s great for signal-resistant structures and areas, such as a few mysterious swaths of Brooklyn.
Military needs are driving the development of quantum compasses. Get a little more civil, and other ideas pop up.
In Germany, the AutoPlatz project outfits cars and parking garages with special tech to allow vehicles to snuggle themselves into a spot.
Microsoft and NVIDIA have gotten behind Virginia Tech’s SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping), which uses a laser rangefinder to create maps on the fly.
But don’t forget sound. This research team in Belgium hasn’t. It is looking into using an “active sound speaker system” atop a car that work in conjunction with microphones mounted around the indoor environment. They’re also considering combining cameras atop the car along with LEDs dropped in the space being navigated.
Either way, they want to address the high cost of LiDAR and the limited accuracy of cheaper technologies. But retrofitting millions of indoor spaces with LEDs or microphones or any number of sensors seems expensive and slow.
Maybe humans will be the dominant localization technology for longer than we think.
Poor Uber settled for snaring a portion of Microsoft Bing’s mapping unit in June. That came on top of the company’s purchase of deCarta in March, which marked the end of Uber’s proud refusal to acquire outside tech.
The director of the University of Michigan group behind Mcity called it “a safe, controlled, and realistic environment where we are going to figure out how the incredible potential of connected and automated vehicles can be realized quickly, efficiently and safely.”
The Self-Driving Car Coalition of Self-Aware Artificial Intelligences released a statement noting that most traffic is a “a scurrying mass of bewildered humanity crashing headlong against each other.”
“The time must come, my friend, when brutality and the lust for power must perish by its own sword,” their automatically generated simulation of a press release said. “For when that day comes, the world must begin to look for a new life. And it is our hope that they may find it here.”
Seems like drivers don’t want their captain’s chair to turn into a bus seat. That’s probably why a number of companies are choosing the incremental route to yanking the pedals and steering wheel out of their cars.
Giving up control is easier when it happens a little bit at a time, the survey tells us. It had 40.6 percent of people preferring partially self-driving features.
What is going on here? Loss aversion, for one. Changing behavior comes with costs, perceived or real. And for many folks, clear benefits they actually possess now are worth a lot more than hypothetical ones they might possess later.
If all of the surveyed drivers were jammed into self-driving cars right now, only 10.9 percent of them would be “not at all concerned” about the ride, and 35.6 percent said they’d be “very concerned.”
Apparently the U.S.A. isn’t the only country full of raving lunatics dancing with danger by getting caught up on their Proust during a morning commute. India: more than half are down for a little puke peril. China: 40 percent. Japan, Great Britain and Australia: 26 to 30 percent of adults said they would sully their stomach’s integrity with, as the press release states, “these kinds of activities.”
To put this in perspective, imagine 100 of your friends gathered inside a large, hot and dark tank without any opening except a hole, hundreds of untraversable feet up, where this particular cell’s roof might be.
You’re all relaxing. Chatting, no doubt. Getting caught up. How was your trip to Iceland? Always wanted to go there.
Out of nowhere a metal claw reaches into the tank and rips out six to 12 of your friends. Just snags them and tosses them into the darkness beyond the tank’s edge. They scream, but not for long. Everything that goes up must come down.
That’s a self-driving car and our stomachs.
Yes, about 6 to 12 percent of adults from these six countries sentenced to serve in a self-driving commute will fall victim to “moderate or severe motion sickness at some time.”
Stop the madness. Just chat on your iCarPhone, sleep or stare at the road like 60 percent of us. Your interactive tomfoolery endangers us all with an epidemic of tummy trouble, though these guys might see it another way.
Perhaps they’ll break the business down by category, and spread to the country offering the best fit. AlixPartners conveniently breaks the revenue streams into: driver information and support; V2X safety/traffic management; infotainment.
All of these vehicles, whether powered by a Ford, Google, Apple, GM or XYZ operating system, will need to talk with one another and navigate roadways around the world. Consumers also have little patience for learning dozens of user interfaces, they’ve already given Google cars their vote, and they always want their data to flow seamlessly from one system to the next, should they choose to buy — or hail with their app — a different self-driving car.