Driverless Car Completes Successful Test Run Around Busy Berlin Streets
James Bullen
at 12:05 PM Sep 22 2011
'MadeInGermany' on its test drive around the streets of Berlin
AutoNOMOS Labs
Cars // 

Sitting back, chatting with your mates, watching the scenery pass you by - these pastimes are generally enjoyed by the passengers of a vehicle while the driver remains focused on bringing the carload to its destination. But a car designed by researchers from Berlin has successfully completed an 80 kilometre test run around the traffic-filled streets of Germany’s capital - without the driver lifting a finger.

Okay, it might not have been as relaxed as the scene described above - but it’s true that researchers from AutoNOMOS Labs were chaffeured around Berlin last weekend by their autonomous car ‘MadeInGermany,’ enjoying the scenery without the stress and worry of driving.

A safety driver sits behind the wheel, but only to monitor what’s going on and intervene if something unexpected happens. But otherwise, the car is driven by a computer. It knows its position in the city through a precise GPS unit, and its surroundings through a number of sensors mounted onto the car itself. Six lasers on the front and back of the vehicle fire bursts of infrared light 360 degrees around the car, and by measuring the echo of the light pulses, obstacles and pedestrians are located. A rotating laser on the top of the vehicle gives further information about the car’s surroundings in 3D.

With the surroundings sorted, the car also has to worry about road markings and traffic lights. A black and white video camera in the car finds lane markings to help centre the vehicle on the road, while two colour cameras determine the colour of traffic lights.

Head of the project, Professor Paul Rojas, says public use of autonomous cars is not far away. 

“The standards used to measure safety in autonomous cars will be far more severe than for humans, but once all pieces fall into place, autonomous cars will be safer than cars driven by persons. It is just a matter of time,” he said.


comments powered by Disqus
Filed under:
Sign up for the Pop Sci newsletter
Australian Popular Science
PopSci Live