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Soon, vehicles that drive on their own

Washington, May 27 (ANI): Ever imagined reading a book or watching a movie in your car, while your vehicle guides itself through the traffic and navigates on its own? Well, thanks to a new technology called ‘autonomous vehicle navigation’, this could soon be a reality.

If this technology comes into action, it may also see fleets of self-navigating vehicles for the military operating in war zones.

Keeping this in mind, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contest was conducted, which aimed at spurring the development of such technologies.

The DARPA Urban Challenge was held at a former air force base in Victorville, Calif. in late 2007, and offered a 3.5 million dollars purse to competitors who could design the fastest and safest vehicles that could traverse a 60-mile urban course in moving traffic in less than six hours.

The contestant vehicles were unmanned and had to complete a simulated military supply mission, manoeuvring through a mock city environment, avoiding obstacles, merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, and negotiating intersections — all while conforming to California driving rules.

And out of the 89 international teams participating in the contest, only six could make it to the finish line in the allotted time.

The winning vehicle, which finished with the fastest time- an average speed of approximately 13 miles per hour- had Wende Zhang of General Motors as part of its design team.

The GM team incorporated existing technology already offered in some of their vehicles that can assist in parking or detect lane markers and trigger alarms if the drivers are coming too close to the shoulder of the road.

And for the DARPA challenge, they developed a more sophisticated package of sensors that included GPS coupled with a camera and a laser-ranging LIDAR system to guide and correct the vehicle’s route through the city.

In Baltimore, Zhang will present GM’s patented new methods for detecting lanes and correcting a vehicle’s route, which helped them win the challenge.

However, Zhang said that a commercially viable autonomous driving product might still take a decade to hit the markets.

The findings were presented at the 2009 Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics/International Quantum Electronics Conference (CLEO/IQEC) at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore. (ANI)

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