Driverless cars may soon see round corners using super-laser
The row over whether driverless cars will ever be able to take the wheel from humans may have finally turned a corner.
Engineers have developed a new super-sensitive laser technique which can be mounted on cars to spot upcoming hazards in an adjacent street, even when they are entirely hidden from view.
The new technology would allow a driverless car to know that a child or animal has run into the road before it makes a sharp turn, a feat that a human could never achieve.
Driverless cars already have laser systems that sense the world around them, but the new development would allow them to literally see around corners.
“It sounds like magic but the idea of non-line-of-sight imaging is actually feasible,” said Gordon Wetzstein, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University.
“If your car could look around the corner it could make decisions, probably more reliably and further ahead of time.
“This is a big step forward for our field that will hopefully benefit all of us.”
The algorithm can send back an image in less than a second, and although it is not as sharp as a regular image, it can show whether there is an obstruction in the road.
Currently the technology performs best when picking out highly reflective objects such as safety apparel or traffic signs.
Before this system is road ready, it will also have to work better in daylight and with objects in motion, like a bouncing ball or running child, said the researchers .
The team believe the laser could be used to see through through foliage from aerial vehicles or give rescue teams the ability to find people blocked from view by walls and rubble.
Doctoral student David Lindell, added: “A benefit of our algorithm as well is that it is compatible with existing scanning systems so you can take our system, apply it to these existing systems and be able to apply this non-line-of-sight imaging.