Scientists take self-driving auto out for a spin in UK

Researchers at Oxford University have built a self-driving car that uses lasers and cameras to recognize familiar routes.

Imagine a world where every time you drive your car, it gains experience by learning the routes from point A to point B. And pretty soon, you can press a button and it will take you where you need to go.

Well that technology is already here and consumers may not need to wait too long; researchers at Oxford University are trying to produce a low-cost self-driving car, according to a BBC report.

Called the Oxford RobotCar UK, the technology uses lasers and small cameras to build a 3-D model of its environment as it travels. So the next time it travels to the same destination and recognizes the route, the system will ask whether the human driver wants the system to take over. If the human wants to resume control of the car, a simple tap on the brake pedal will do.

The self-driving car recently got tested in a specially made environment at Begbroke Science Park in Oxfordshire.

"It's not depending on GPS, digging up the roads or anything like that — it's just the vehicles knowing where they are because they recognize their surroundings,” Prof. Paul Newman from Oxford University’s Department of Engineering science told the BBC.

In testing, the vehicle successfully passed a test if it would stop for pedestrians as they walked across the road.

"Because our cities don't change very quickly, robotic vehicles will know and look out for familiar structures as they pass by so that they can ask a human driver 'I know this route, do you want me to drive?,’ Prof. Newman said.

He added, "I would be astounded if we don't see this kind of technology in cars within 15 years. That is going to be huge."

Currently the complete system costs around 5,000 pounds or $7,600 U.S. dollars. Prof. Newman hopes that future models will bring prices down to a level that’s suitable for everyday consumers — 100 pounds or $153.

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