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No lights, no signs, no accidents - future intersections for driverless cars

Friday, 23 Mar, 2012 - 02:40

March 23 - Computer scientists at the University of Texas in Austin are developing intersections of the future, designed to accommodate the driverless vehicles they believe will soon take over our roads. The intersection will have no traffic lights and no stop signs, just computer programs that will talk directly to each car on the road. Ben Gruber reports.

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Driving through an intersection can be deadly. According the World Health Organization 3500 people die every day in traffic accidents, and if conventional intersections controlling conventional traffic are dangerous, Peter Stone is trying imagine a world where driverless cars are no longer experimental, but the norm. Stone is an associate professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas. He believes the era of the driverless car has already begun. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PETER STONE, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, COMPUTER SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, SAYING: "Ninety-five percent of accidents are caused by human error and the reason we are focusing on intersections is that one quarter of all accidents occur in intersections and a third of all fatal accidents so taking the person out of the loop will be a huge advantage." But while removing human control inside an intersection may be a daunting idea, Stone and his team believe they've developed a system that will work on the busiest of roads. Stone's idea sees traffic signals like lights and stop signs, replaced by a computer programme that manages each individual vehicle as it navigates the intersection. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PETER STONE, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, COMPUTER SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, SAYING: "Within a few hundred yards of where it is approaching, it calls ahead essentially, sends a wireless signal using a technology that already exists called dedicated short range communications or DSRC and there is a computer programme at the intersection that is basically maintaining a reservation system." Stone says the reservation system will ensure that cars stay far enough apart to avoid a collision while always staying in motion. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PETER STONE, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, COMPUTER SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, SAYING: "By virtue of the cars not having to accelerate and decelerate as much and by not having to slow down and wait, the statistics show that the average American spends 48 hours each year stuck in traffic which costs about 5 billion dollars in fuel and productivity that is lost basically thrown out the window. If all the cars are autonomous, we can put a huge dent in that." Stone says computer controlled cars and intersections will be eco-friendly as well. By eliminating the need to continually stop and start, he says the cars will use a lot less energy and reduce their carbon footprint significantly. Stone admits that a completely autonomous driving environment is still years away, even though the technology already exists. He says the cost of the technology will have to come down before a driverless car - and his intersection - get a green light Ben Gruber, Reuters.

No lights, no signs, no accidents - future intersections for driverless cars

Friday, 23 Mar, 2012 - 02:40

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