Across Europe, automobile companies including BMW, Volvo and Bosch have all recently tested driverless cars on public roads, and regard autonomous technology as being a key area of their future business.
Bosch’s vehicle gathers data using radar and ultrasonic sensors, a stereo video camera and a spinning roof-mounted laser scanner (LIDAR), which generates a detailed 3D map of the environment. Google’s fleet of autonomous Toyota Priuses also uses a laser scanner coupled with GPS and other sensors to build up an image of its surroundings. Meanwhile, BMW has adopted a similar approach but mounted its laser scanner below the front grill, where it is used to generate an image of what lies ahead of the car. The shared long-term vision among all these companies and many others is that all of this local intelligence will feed into a vast pool of data relating to what’s happening on the roads. Cars will be able to talk to each other and to intelligent road infrastructure, and plan their routes, trajectories and driving styles accordingly.