It seems like today, the forefront of automotive news is autonomous driving. In fact, Cadillac is even readying its own semi-autonomous driving technology, and adaptive cruise control gives us a taste of the future today.
This technology has been in development for some time though. In fact, a crew decided to take their pipe dream to the open road. They loaded up a salvaged Pontiac Trans Sport with their gadgetry, and decided to drive DC to San Diego.
The story appeared on Jalopnik, but was originally published on Robotic Trends, where Dean Pomerleau, a Carnegie University research scientist, and Todd Jochem, a Ph.D student at the time, detail their journey and reflect on how far the technology has come.
The equipment was as advanced as it came in 1995. The Pontiac minivan was loaded with one computer, a 640×480 color camera, a GPS receiver and a self-described fiber-optic gyro. These guys didn’t have GPS as we know it today, though. GPS was still much a military thing, and less a civilian asset. Instead, the GPS receiver was used to track speed in the vehicle.
The camera would read the road lines, potholes, oil spills and more and transfer that data to the computer which would send signals to the electric motor on the steering wheel to turn right or left. Sounds pretty advanced, right? It was even portable, and was powered only by the car’s cigarette lighter.
It was quite a site to see, and you can read the full story on the team’s “No Hands Across America” road trip here. Think about it the next time your car parallel parks itself, and you can only imagine where we’re headed in another 20 years.