Now driverless cars can see around corners

Written by: Simon Pavey, Last updated:14th February 2022


Researchers are working on technology that could help driverless cars to see around corners in a bid to make them safer for real roads.

A team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US will present their latest work at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in China next week, which improves on a system called ShadowCam that was developed several years ago.

Playing with shadows

The team’s aim is for driverless cars to be able to pre-emptively spot other vehicles or hazards such as pedestrians before humans would, even if they are out of sight and around corners.

To do this, they have been using video cameras positioned on the road ahead of the car, where two perpendicular paths meet. This effectively allows the car to see the shadows of potential obstacles coming.

The technology then captures the light that is bounced back and processes the results to create a 3D model of the approaching object, including its speed, so the vehicle has time to slow down or stop.

MIT’s Daniela Rus said: “The big dream is to provide ‘X-ray vision’ of sorts to vehicles moving fast on the streets.”

Unfortunately, the technology has so far only been tested in car parks and corridors and has not yet faced the issues posed by the sun on the use of shadows, so it may be some time before it is commercially available.

Meanwhile, trials of driverless cars started in the London boroughs of Croydon and Bromley this month in a bid to ensure they can cope with Britain’s small and cramped roads, as well as the larger highways and grid systems in America.

Jenny Smith, general manager for Tele-Gence, commented: “This is exciting news indeed and we continue to look forward to the day when we can sit back and enjoy our car driving us to the shops instead of the other way around.”

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