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CMU's Autonomous Car Doesn't Look like a Robot

This self-driving Cadillac uses seemingly invisible, automotive-grade sensors

2 min read
CMU's Autonomous Car Doesn't Look like a Robot

The future of automobile autonomy isn't going to involve cars covered in cameras and radar and lasers. It's going to be all invisible, and CMU is already there.

The 2011 Cadillac SRX in the picture above is an autonomous car. Carnegie Mellon University had it drive itself 33 miles last week on public roads, from from Cranberry, Pa. to Pittsburgh International Airport. At first glance, you probably wouldn't be able to tell that the car is self-driving, because self-driving cars looked like this just five years ago:

That's CMU's BOSS competing in the DARPA Urban Challenge in 2007, with who knows how many sensors mounted all over it. And even Google's autonomous cars have that signature Velodyne LIDAR mounted on top of them:

By contrast, CMU's SRX relies entirely on automotive-grade radars, lidars, and cameras. You can see them if you look closely in the picture at the top of this article (there's one above the windshield, for example), but you do have to look closely. Inside, there are some extra buttons and screens, but all of the computers are stuffed under the floor in the trunk. And despite the lack of giant and complicated and expensive sensor systems, the car is still able to achieve the level of autonomy that we all want it to, as CMU's Raj Rajkumar explains:

"This car is the holy grail of autonomous driving because it can do it all — from changing lanes on highways, driving in congested suburban traffic and navigating traffic lights."

In addition to controlling the steering, speed and braking, the autonomous systems also detect and avoid obstacles in the road, including traffic cones and barrels, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists, pausing until they are safely out of the way. The systems provide audible warnings of obstacles and communicate vehicle status to its passengers using a human-like voice.

It's unfortunate that while the technology for all of this is arguably mostly ready, society (socially and legally) just isn't yet. You can buy cars with adaptive cruise control and lane departure warnings, which could hypothetically let the car drive itself, at least under some specific circumstances. And despite the fact that even a bad autonomous (or semi-autonomous) car would still save lives overall, there's no legal infrastructure in place to make it possible for manufacturers to implement such technology without undue risk of being sued into oblivion the first time something goes wrong.

Via [ CMU ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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