Autonomous Cars: The Year Of Driving Dangerously

Afraid that your autonomous car will drive like a little old lady? Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have your back, speed demons. They're trying to make sure that driverless cars can go fast even under hazardous road conditions.

(Autonomous Dirt Track Car for Aggressive Driving video)

Up until now we’ve seen driverless cars performing comfortably on roads in good condition, but by using advanced algorithms and onboard computing, together with installed sensor devices, the Georgia Tech team was able to maintain control of a driverless vehicle when roadway adhesion was limited.

So a driverless car would be able to perform in icy or, as the researchers tested, rally-style conditions.

“An autonomous vehicle should be able to handle any condition, not just drive on the highway under normal conditions,” said School of Aerospace Engineering professor and expert on the mathematics behind rally-car racing control, Panagiotis Tsiotras.

“One of our principal goals is to infuse some of the expert techniques of human drivers into the brains of these autonomous vehicles.”

The Georgia Tech researchers used a method called model predictive path integral control (MPPI) to keep their cars at the edge of their limits.

To create their MPPI control algorithm the team combined large amounts of car handling information with data on the dynamics of the vehicle, to calculate the most stable trajectories from the numerous possibilities.

“Aggressive driving in a robotic vehicle – manoeuvring at the edge – is a unique control problem involving a highly complex system,” said School of Aerospace Engineering assistant professor and project leader, Evangelos Theodorou.

“However, by merging statistical physics with control theory, and utilising leading-edge computation, we can create a new perspective, a new framework, for control of autonomous systems.”

Thanks to the tireless efforts of sf writers, I've already seen this future. The AutoM8s from Daniel Suarez' outstanding 2009 novel Daemon is driven by an AI with an interest in hazardous driving:

Suddenly, the car engine roared into life. It revved several times. The wheels turned left, then right.

Khan grinned. "It's alive! Bu-wahhahahah!"

Suddenly the car's engine raced, and it laid down rubber, accelerating madly along the asphalt track...

The Lincoln was weaving from side to side, then it suddenly slammed on the brakes and screeched to a halt. It peeled out suddenly again and went into a power slide, whipping its tail around. It roared forward again, building up speed on the straightaway, then wrenched its wheels into another slide, and came out facing in the other direction - still accelerating into a bootlegger reverse.

McCruder smiled. "It's testing the properties of the car."

Via Factor-Tech.

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