Slideshow - Victorian Hacking

This summer, David Mindell, a professor of the history of engineering at MIT, traveled to England to lead a tour of Victorian technology--a journey into the fantastical world of Watt, Babbage, Brunel, and other 19th-century hackers

1 min read

About the Author

David A. Mindell is a professor of the history of engineering and manufacturing at MIT. His research interests include the history of automation in the military, the history of electronics and computing, theories of engineering systems, deep-ocean robotic archaeology, and the history of space exploration. His most recent book is Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight (MIT Press, 2008).

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Self-Driving Cars Work Better With Smart Roads

Intelligent infrastructure makes autonomous driving safer and less expensive

9 min read
A photograph shows a single car headed toward the viewer on the rightmost lane of a three-lane road that is bounded by grassy parkways, one side of which is planted with trees. In the foreground a black vertical pole is topped by a crossbeam bearing various instruments. 

This test unit, in a suburb of Shanghai, detects and tracks traffic merging from a side road onto a major road, using a camera, a lidar, a radar, a communication unit, and a computer.

Shaoshan Liu

Enormous efforts have been made in the past two decades to create a car that can use sensors and artificial intelligence to model its environment and plot a safe driving path. Yet even today the technology works well only in areas like campuses, which have limited roads to map and minimal traffic to master. It still can’t manage busy, unfamiliar, or unpredictable roads. For now, at least, there is only so much sensory power and intelligence that can go into a car.

To solve this problem, we must turn it around: We must put more of the smarts into the infrastructure—we must make the road smart.

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