Self-driving car makes public debut following EPSRC support

Supplementary content information

The UK's first public trials of a self-driving car have attracted significant media interest this week.

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Professor Paul Newman – British Petroleum Professor of Information Engineering, University of Oxford

I’m standing here in front of the Lutz Pathfinder autonomous vehicle.  This is a vehicle that started life as a Renault Twizy and we have refitted it to make it autonomous.  So, in the back there is a computer and that computer’s job is to process sensor data so the machine can say where am I, what’s around me and what should I do.

The sensors that it uses are cameras and lasers and you can see the cameras on the top of the vehicle and hidden in the front, between three little lenses poking out at the front and the lasers sort of popped out on the side, and those sensors feed data into the computer.  The computer then sends a signal back to the car that says make the steering wheel angle perhaps three degrees to the left or one degree to the right and set the speed to this and then the vehicle moves, the data coming in to the sensors changes a little bit, the machine at the back - the computer spots that and sends a new control signal down to the car and you have an autonomous car.  I wish it were that simple, but basically that’s the steps, it’s called sense, think, act. 

You might want to send something to Mars to represent our species, you might want to go under water, so all of these concepts, all of these things that we want to do in our name require machines to know where they are, what’s around them and what they should do in different degrees and that is great core fundamental research that EPSRC backs and its made a difference.