- Feature Stories
- News Flash
- Inspire Innovation
Carnegie Mellon Builds New Technologies for the Family Car
By: Chriss Swaney
Will we still drive our cars, or will our cars drive us? We already have onboard navigation systems, infrared night vision, in-car satellite links, antiskid brakes and other electronic Samaritans ready to assist us when we need help behind the wheel.
Just around the corner, according to Carnegie Mellon researchers, are smart highways embedded with millions of tiny sensors and even smarter cars that are constantly aware of the traffic that is flowing around them. Drivers in the not-too-distant future will navigate from their home to the nearest freeway entrance ramp, at which time the car must take control of much of the driving task. Commuters will barrel down the highway at 120 mph with only a few inches between their car and the next. But will they be concerned?
No, they will be checking the NASDAQ and gabbing on the cell phone and searching eBay until they reach their programmed exit—ushering in the age of fully automated motoring first promised in General Motor’s spectacular “Futurama’’ exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
“There is simply no limit to what we can achieve as the technology improves,” said Ed Schlesinger, head of Carnegie Mellon’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. “Cars will become nodes in a worldwide network delivering information to that network and getting information from it. You won’t have to search for a place to stop for lunch, for example. The car will make recommendations based on your likes and dislikes,” he said.
Already Carnegie Mellon researchers, led by Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor and GM-Carnegie Mellon Collaborative Research Lab Co-Director Rajkumar Ragunathan, are developing technology that will make it possible for cars to communicate with one another, giving drivers critical information about road conditions, traffic and even where the nearest parking spot can be found. Through a dynamic vehicle-to-vehicle networking system, Carnegie Mellon researchers are turning the family car into a mobile sensor platform capable of detecting traffic snarls and icy roads. If the car ahead of you brakes hard for some reason, your car will be notified and even brake on your behalf if you fail to react in time.
“That information can help drivers quickly modify speed to prevent serious accidents or change routes to reach their destination on time,” Rajkumar said.
Some industry analysts also report that cars equipped with network sensors could help control traffic patterns. For example, a typical highway lane can accommodate 2,000 vehicles per hour, but with increased automation that capacity could be expanded to 6,000 per hour depending on the spacing of road entrances and exits and the ability of vehicle-to-vehicle networks to monitor a vehicle’s location and velocity.(Continued …)