Car drives itself on urban streets

Car drives itself on urban streets
Melanie Reynolds A car that relieves drivers of the strain of travelling in urban traffic is being tested by researchers in Germany. The system takes control of the car’s steering, brakes, throttle, gear change and indicators, although the driver can recover control by grabbing the wheel and driving again. Called Darvin (Driver Assistance using Realtime Vision for INnercity areas), the system is being developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Information & Data Processing. The demonstration vehicle is a Volkswagen Passat equipped with four computers, cameras, steering angle sensor and wheel sensors. The equipment takes up lots of room at present but project engineer Frank Heimes said that the amount of equipment needed would be reduced in any commercial system. To negotiate the road, the car uses stored 3D models of other vehicles, pedestrians and typical roads, including junctions. Images captured by the cameras are compared with these models from which the computer can work out where the vehicle is and what action to take. The problem with urban driving is that other drivers ignore lane markings, which can make them hard to follow. Darvin overcomes this by following other cars, keeping pace and staying in line. The downside of this action is that Darvin ignores the speed limit when everyone else does. Heimes believes it will be several years yet before such systems are on sale.


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