The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Technology

August 25, 2013

Carnegie Mellon developing driver-less car of the future now

(Continued)

Associated Press — Mr. Rajkumar, who earned his master's and doctorate in electrical and computer engineering at CMU, said autonomous driving vehicles also will make passengers more productive during the average work week they spend sitting in stalled traffic each year, enabling them to catch up on email, reading or even napping. And it will provide mobility for elderly and disabled people.

"What used to be science fiction is certainly no longer science fiction," Mr. Rajkumar said.

Indeed, while it may not be the flying cars that "The Jetsons" promised wide-eyed baby boomers, the concept of self-driving vehicles no longer is fiction. But there's certainly a lot of science involved -- computer engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering and robotics.

Here, then, is how all of those specialities fuse for a ride in the future.

A car that can drive itself might be expected to have science-y gizmos all over it, but the Cadillac parked in Cranberry Municipal Park's lot sure doesn't stand out. That's key for conducting real-world experiments because other drivers might alter their behavior otherwise, said Jarrod Snider, the project's lead engineer, who like Mr. Rajkumar and six other team members is wearing a blue polo shirt bearing "GM LAB -- Autonomous Car -- Carnegie Mellon."

"No one's aware of how much they're helping us out," he said, climbing into the "driver's seat" with Mr. Rajkumar sitting in the front passenger seat. "One of the big benefits of us testing here on public roads is that it is impossible for us to come up with this stuff on a test course. We have the randomness of the road and that's a good way for us to test."

The vehicle is equipped with six lasers and six radar covering all 360 degrees surrounding the vehicle and cameras in the front and back, including a thermal infrared model. Fusing all of the information gleaned from those devices are four whirling computers stored in a compartment beneath the cargo area that is easily accessed by lifting a panel.

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