The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

French Self-Driving Car Takes to the Road

French researchers have created an autonomous vehicle designed to test automotive safety systems

2 min read
French Self-Driving Car Takes to the Road

Quasper France autonomous vehicle

Autonomous vehicle projects are picking up speed -- literally. Leading the pack is Google's famed robot car, which has logged thousands of kilometers driving on public roads. But there are projects also in Italy, Germany, the U.K., and reportedly China.

Now we've learned about an interesting self-driving vehicle developed in France. The video below shows how the car works and some road tests, including one in which a "polystyrene pedestrian" is thrown in front of the vehicle:

The car was developed by a team from IFSTTAR, a French R&D organization, and the Embedded Electronic Systems Research Institute at ESIGELEC, an engineering school in Rouen, in the Normandy region. The goal is to develop autonomous vehicle technologies that can help test automotive safety systems.

By using a "driving robot," the researchers can control the exact trajectory, speed, and behavior of a vehicle. "Then we can compare the performance of different safety systems," says Pierre Merriaux, one of researchers involved.

The group modified a Renault Grand Espace by adding a Stahle "robot driver," sensors, cameras, and a control bay on the roof. Merriaux explains that the car is guided by GPS RTK and an iXSea inertial unit, with data acquired and processed using the RTMaps multisensor engine. There are three cameras to monitor the vehicle's surroundings and one forward-facing used to track road lanes and markings. A LIDAR unit at the front detects other cars and pedestrians.

The researchers first tested their robot car manually, driving it with a joystick. Then they let the car drive itself on a test track. They plan to use the vehicle to evaluate safety features under various driving  conditions.

The project is part of a large R&D program called Quasper, which involves a number of French companies and labs, including the Thales Group and INRIA. The aim is to develop sensors and "perception systems" for applications in transportation and security.

More photos:

Quasper France autonomous vehicle

Quasper France autonomous vehicle

Quasper France autonomous vehicle

Quasper France autonomous vehicle

Quasper France autonomous vehicle

Photos and video: IRSEEM/ESIGELEC and IFSTTAR

Merci, Pierre!


How Google's Self-Driving Car Works

BrainDriver: A Mind Controlled Car

Volkswagen Demonstrates Production-Level Automotive Autopilot on Video

Dodge Shouldn't Be Scared of Robot Cars

The Conversation (0)

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?

Keep Reading ↓Show less