Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Demonstrating a driverless future


Carnegie Mellon researchers bring NSF-funded autonomous vehicle to D.C. to show promise of driverless cars

In the coming decades, we will likely commute to work and explore the countryside in autonomous, or driverless, cars capable of communicating with the roads they are traveling on. A convergence of technological innovations in embedded sensors, computer vision, artificial intelligence, control and automation, and computer processing power is making this feat a reality.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University demonstrate the autonomous vehicle they developed with NSF support at an event in September 2013. Their driverless car arrived in Washington, D.C., in June 2014 for a demonstration at the Capitol.

Credit: Carnegie Mellon University

This week, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) will mark a significant milestone, demonstrating one of the most advanced autonomous vehicles ever designed, capable of navigating on urban roads and highways without human intervention. The car was brought to Washington, D.C., at the request of Congressman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, who participated in a 33-mile drive in the autonomous vehicle between a Pittsburgh suburb and the city's airport last September.

Developed with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Transportation, DARPA and General Motors, the car is the result of more than a decade of research and development by scientists and engineers at CMU and elsewhere. Their work has advanced the underlying technologies--sensors, software, wireless communications and network integration--required to make sure a vehicle on the road is as safe--and ultimately safer--without a driver than with one. (In the case of the Washington, D.C., demonstration, an engineer will be on hand to take the wheel if required.)

"This technology has been enabled by remarkable advances in the seamless blend of computation, networking and control into physical objects--a field known as cyber-physical systems," said Cora Marrett, NSF deputy director. "The National Science Foundation has long supported fundamental research that has built a strong foundation to enable cyber-physical systems to become a reality--like Dr. Raj Rajkumar's autonomous car."

Raj Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and robotics at CMU, is a leader not just in autonomous vehicles, but in the broader field of cyber-physical systems, or CPS. Such systems are already in use in sectors such as agriculture, energy, healthcare and advanced manufacturing, and they are poised to make an impact in transportation as well.

"Federal funding has been critical to our work in dealing with the uncertainties of real-world operating conditions, making efficient real-time usage of on-board computers, enabling vehicular communications and ensuring safe driving behaviors," Rajkumar said.

In 2007, Carnegie Mellon's then state-of-the-art driverless car, BOSS, took home the $2 million grand prize in the DARPA Urban Challenge, which pitted the leading autonomous vehicles in the world against one another in a challenging, urban environment. The new vehicle that Rajkumar is demonstrating in Washington, D.C., is the successor to that vehicle.

Unlike BOSS, which was rigged with visible antennas and large sensors, CMU's new car--a Cadillac SRX--doesn't appear particularly "smart." In fact, it looks much like any other car on the road. However, top-of-the-line radar, cameras, sensors and other technologies are built into the body of the vehicle. The car's computers are tucked away under the floor.

The goal of CMU's researchers is simple but important: To develop a driverless car that can decrease injuries and fatalities on roads. Automotive accidents result in 1.2 million fatalities annually around the world and cost citizens and governments $518 billion. It is estimated that 90 percent of those accidents are caused by human error.

"Because computers don't get distracted, sleepy or angry, they can actually keep us much safer--that is the promise of this technology," Rajkumar said. "Over time, the technology will augment automotive safety significantly."

In addition to controlling the steering, speed and braking, the autonomous systems in the vehicle also detect and avoid obstacles in the road, including pedestrians and bicyclists.

In their demonstration in D.C., cameras in the vehicle will visually detect the status of traffic lights and respond appropriately. In collaboration with the D.C. Department of Transportation, the researchers have even added a technology that allows some of the traffic lights in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington to wirelessly communicate with the car, telling it the status of the lights ahead.

NSF has supported Rajkumar's work on autonomous vehicles since 2005, but it is not the only project of this kind that NSF supports. In addition to CMU's driverless car, NSF supports Sentry, an autonomous underwater vehicle deployed at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and several projects investigating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) including those in use in search and rescue and disaster recovery operations. Moreover, NSF supports numerous projects that advance the fundamental theories and applications that underlie all autonomous vehicles and other cyber-physical systems.

In the last five years, NSF has invested over $200 million in CPS research and education, building a foundation for the smart systems of the future.


Media Contacts
Aaron Dubrow, NSF, 703-292-4489,
Byron Spice, Carnegie Mellon University, 412-268-9068,

Principal Investigators
Raj Rajkumar, Carnegie Mellon University, 412-268-8707,

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Aaron Dubrow | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Artificial Intelligence CMU CPS DARPA NSF Transportation grants processing roads wireless communications

More articles from Automotive Engineering:

nachricht New algorithm for optimized stability of planar-rod objects
11.08.2016 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

nachricht Automated driving: Steering without limits
05.02.2016 | FZI Forschungszentrum Informatik am Karlsruher Institut für Technologie

All articles from Automotive Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>