We’ve already read about autonomous cars which are capable of parking themselves and in some instances drive around as well. However, today we will talk about taking the autonomous vehicles to the next level. Welcome to Stanford where a team is busy developing race cars that can drive at 150 Mph and that too autonomously.
Chris Gerdes, the team leader believes that autonomous vehicles should be as safe and as fast as human drivers are capable of driving them. Gerdes wants to employ the abilities and skills of professional drivers into making the autonomous vehicles safe and to make use of these abilities in order to avoid accidents. They have come up with P1, an electric vehicle, which has been built by students and has rear wheel drive and steering of front wheels based on steer-by-wire system. P1 is able to drift around corners and can make tight turns quite effectively while being able to adapt to different terrains.
P1 takes a map of the racetrack and uses a math model in order to find the fastest way to complete the track. The mathematical model is based on iterative solutions and this is what gives it an edge over human drivers who are unable to make use of such algorithms. P1 is able to determine the tradeoffs between two factors; going as fast as possible and making sure that the car is on track. The team had to understand how a professional driver’s mind works. They got hold of some professional drivers and hooked them up to electrodes. The test was focused on detecting alpha and theta waves. Theta waves are generated when the driver is busy in visual processing and decision making process is going on. Alpha waves are generated when the brain is at rest. The test revealed that most of the track driving demands critical theta wave decisions; however, there are times when the driver makes use of his/her instincts.
This finding became the inspiration for Chris and his team of brilliant students to incorporate some intuition into the autonomous automobiles. The ultimate target is to install reflexive involuntary actions or at least some components of it into the autonomous vehicles. This possibility of incorporating a new balance of man and machine will hopefully help achieve a lot more than we are capable as of now and will impart human potential to machines as well.