The industry of autonomous vehicles is becoming a reality of the future, but self-driving golf carts is where it starts, as a simple, cheaper and less dangerous trials could provide the perfect test before moving on to complex vehicle.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the National Research Foundation of Singapore partnered up in order to make a few adjustments that would turn the regular Yamaha golf car into a self-driving vehicle that allowed passengers to enjoy the view without driving.
It’s not a full scale project, but it found that there were cheaper ways of making such a commodity available in public transportation in the future. It could be seen at some point through the streets as common as cyclists, especially aiding the elderly and disabled in moving from one place to another.
The Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) program has equipped itself with the aim to finding “a minimalist solution to the self-driving car problem”, according to Daniela Rus, from MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer science.
Due to the lighter size, fewer features and less powerful system, they managed to cut the cost to a still high $30,000, but that is quite a trim, considering the Google has used $80,000 for their bigger, and, albeit, more sophisticated vehicles.
They did not use 3D scanners that usually have a high price due to the panoramic image. They instead opted for German-made sensors with a 270 degrees range, which was good enough for a golf cart, especially at low speeds of 15 miles per hour.
They relied on an algorithm called the Dynamic Virtual Bumpler, which essentially creates an invisible cylinder of sensors around the car that helps it navigate through paths and avoid obstacles.
The test was conducted in a public garden in Singapore, where 500 participants boarded the self-driving golf carts to make their way through the winding paths and enjoy the scenery while the vehicle did all the work.
The system handled itself rather flawlessly, with just one reported slight hitch that caused it to stop in front of a small obstacle instead of going around it or just pass above it. However, one little bump in the road created by just one harmless incident still makes for excellent results.
The visitors of the park seemed to believe so, as 98% of them said they would gladly use the autonomous golf carts again, and 95% would visit the gardens again if they become a staple across their streets.
Image source: robohub.org