SMART Golf Cart Gives us an Insight into the Future of Driverless Cars

Monday, February 24, 2014

SMART Golf Cart Gives us an Insight into the Future of Driverless Cars

 Self-Driving Car
A team in Singapore has successfully developed their own self-driving car prototype at a much less of a cost than other versions.

The hype around driver-less cars intensifies with each passing day, with information on a new driver-less vehicle concept, new regulation initiative, or some advancements in autonomous driving technology coming up virtually every day, and it seems that it's not about to end any time soon. Google has no intention on slowing its efforts for launching a commercially available self-driving car by 2025, and Japanese car maker Nissan has similar plans, with BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Volvo, and other manufacturers expected to follow their lead.

The latest news involving autonomous vehicles is about a golf cart that is capable of driving itself, which could become available for purchase sometime in the near future.

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It was recently unveiled in Singapore, and it's a result of a collaboration between the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and the National University of Singapore. It's basically an ordinary golf cart, that is equipped with a series of sensors and a computer, which allow it to move completely independently. There are two strategically positioned laser sensors that have a vision field of 270 degrees, which is much better than the human drivers' 100 degrees. The sensors, along with the on-board computer, make it possible for the cart to start, stop, and steer on its own, and be remotely controlled to pick up passengers at a specific location.

What this driver-less vehicldubbed SCOT (Shared Computer-Operated Transport), is lacking, when compared to other vehicles of its kind, is a navigation system based on GPS data. This is because its developers felt that GPS data is not precise enough to be used for self-driving cars, especially when driving in urban areas. “GPS data has a tolerance of 10 to 50 meters, which is not enough for urban environments,” said Dr Zuo Bingran, one of the creators of the SMART golf cart. Since it doesn't use GPS data, it has to rely on a series of pre-loaded maps, as well as live data provided by the sensors, which is supposed to help ease navigation through densely populated areas.

One of the main reasons why the people at Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology wanted to develop such a vehicle is that it could improve road safety to a considerable degree, since a car that is completely controlled by a computer reduces the risk of accidents substantial, considering that it's not susceptible to distractions, fatigue, or poor judgement, unlike human drivers. Another factor that motivated them to do this is the fact that driver-less cars could help long commutes much more bearable, allowing drivers to sit back and relax, letting a computer take care of steering and stopping. Also, traffic flow would be much faster, cutting travel times and helping reduce air pollution.

While Google's driver-less car cost more than $200,000 to build, which is obviously too much for it to be commercially viable, the SMART golf cart is incomparably cheaper, as it doesn't use the kind of equipment that Google's car does, such as a sophisticated laser radar system, so it has the potential to be widely adopted by future car buyers.


By Jordan PerchSubscribe to 33rd Square

Author Bio - Jordan Perch is an automotive fanatic and “car tech” specialist. He is a regular contributor to a collaborative community for US drivers.