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Curtin researchers develop technology for autonomous car

Media release

Curtin researchers have helped create technology that will make an autonomous car affordable to the average-income person within a decade.

The ‘eyes and ears’ technology comprises a dozen different sensors installed in an average car, paired with an algorithm that processes the large amount of data received. This creates meaningful information which tells the car the nature and location of obstacles.

Curtin Associate Professor Dr Ba Tuong Vo, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said this autonomous car, created through a joint project between Curtin, Daimler (the research arm of

Mercedes Benz) and Ulm University in Germany, would be commercially viable because it does not need to be connected to the internet and can be produced at a low cost.

“Our goal was to use affordable sensors, radars, lasers and computer technology that is already available on the market, so the car is more likely to be accessible for people, unlike the small number of driverless cars that currently exist costing hundreds of thousands of dollars each,” Associate Professor Vo said.

“At the moment our autonomous car can drive in a straight line and sense what is around it.  The next step is to give it a ‘brain’ or the computer systems which can tell how to react to what is around it and also what to do when an object comes in its path.

“This will be difficult, as it is giving the car total control of all functions, unlike current driver assist technology that focuses on one purpose, such as alerting the driver when the car drifts out of a lane, or cruise control to keep at a certain speed.”

Although this step means an affordable autonomous car is certainly on its way, Associate Professor Vo believes the car will probably take another decade to develop, with legislation around car insurance being one of the hardest obstacles to overcome.

“There are some interesting issues that will have to be dealt with moving forward, including what decision a car should make when it senses a crash, and also, whose fault an accident is – the car, the sensors or the driver,” Associate Professor Vo said.

“We can be certain that the technology is coming, but from now it’s up to potential users and government to decide the intricacies of how it will be used.”