In the Loop

In the Loop: November 7, 2007 Archive

Forget The French Connection, we've got robots!

Posted at 12:55 PM on November 7, 2007 by Larissa Anderson (1 Comments)

Here it is. One of the greatest car chase scenes in movie history.

Who else could handle a Pontiac like Gene Hackman?

Or should I ask what else?

In keeping with the robot love here on The Loophole, I have to post about the US Department of Defense conducting research on robot cars that can drive themselves right into dangerous situations so humans don't have to.

In The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001(PDF), Congress set a mandate that “It shall be a goal of the Armed Forces to achieve the fielding of unmanned, remotely controlled technology such that . . . by 2015, one-third of the operational ground combat vehicles are unmanned.”

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has set up the DARPA Urban Challenge where robot cars try to steer their way through complicated mock city streetscape and change lanes, deal with busy intersections and not ride up on other people's bumpers.

Turns out that right now, robots drivers are just a little worse than teenagers during their behind the wheel training (My driving instructor took up smoking during my downtown rounds).

It took 80 people - from undergraduate students at the California Institute of Technology to NASA engineers - to create the artificial intelligence of Alice, a 2004 Ford van.

The Scientific American notes that in this year's DARPA Challenge, Alice didn't make it to the final rounds:

In one instance, Alice stopped at an intersection, advanced when the road was clear of traffic, but slowed down again because she mistakenly perceived a concrete guardrail to be an obstacle.... Alice at times also failed to identify the line in the road signaling her to stop at intersections and either stopped too late or not at all.

Sounds like this is just a minor blip in the process. With a little more time, cars will be driving us. And teenagers will be able to leave the parallel parking to their robot cars.

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