The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


August 25, 2013

Carnegie Mellon developing driver-less car of the future now


Associated Press — Operating with 500,000 lines of computer code and in some cases making calculations in 10 milliseconds, the computers safely operate the vehicle's speed and direction of travel while determining lane markings, speed limits, the status of traffic lights, the speed and location of other vehicles, and classifying objects as humans, bicycles, motor vehicles or non-mobile obstacles.

Inside, it's hard to miss a red button in the middle of the dash reading "Emergency Stop." On the console is another knob, which can switch the car back and forth from manual to autonomous operation. In the middle of the dash and in the headrests in the back seats are video monitors that in different modes -- live cameras, animation and thermal infrared, among others -- illustrate the location of the Cadillac in relation to everything around it.

Mr. Snider touches a button on the display screen.

"System starting up. Autonomous ready," says a dulcet female voice.

He turns the console knob.

"Autonomous driving," the voice says and the car automatically shifts into "Drive" and begins moving. For a brief second, it's impossible not to think of HAL 9000, the male-voiced spacecraft computer in "2001: A Space Odyssey." Unlike HAL, this computer doesn't have a malevolent mind of its own but it is nonetheless surreal. The car accelerates, the steering wheel turns and the vehicle pulls to a stop at a stop sign -- all while Mr. Snider does nothing but watch.

From all the information being gathered by its myriad sensors, the vehicle knows the road is clear and it continues down Ernie Mashuda Drive, clicks on its right turn signal and stops at the stop sign at the intersection with Route 19. Cars whiz by and the Cadillac waits and waits. And then, when it is safe to pull out, it turns right and begins moving at 45 mph, the speed limit.

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