Casting the net wider to solve the 3D autonomous traffic puzzle
Professor Adam Beaumont talks to Annie Turner about the future of transport where autonomous cars will be just one element of the 3D traffic puzzle that includes jet suits, drones and robots. The future is much closer than you think, as his various ventures prove.
Annie Turner : You talk about the importance of bringing expertise and experience from outside the automotive industry to autonomous vehicles – which sectors and what could they contribute?
Adam Beaumont : A lot of the driverless technology we’re seeing is focused on getting the vehicle to conduct itself in relatively easy environments. For example, closed campuses, motorways (everything travelling in the same direction in straight lines). As you approach cities, you have a lot more variables and a much higher traffic density. As a result, you’ve got a much greater number of decisions involved in driving safely.
Spatial awareness is key to coordinating tomorrow’s transport. It’s not just going to be cars but also drones, jet suits (this technology exists), smart vans, lorries, pedestrians, delivery robots (check out) and more. They will be literally coming from every angle. The disciplines that are evolving best to cope with this 3D transport puzzle are virtual reality and gaming. The algorithms used to control multiplayer 3D games are the kinds of technology we want to be aware of the spatial relationships between multiple moving vehicles.
Innovation will mean more efficient logistics: imagine if trucks can travel at night, slowly, but still more efficiently on quiet roads and without tired drivers; and if robotic street sweepers cleaned our streets in the small hours.
The same innovation will allow public access to on-demand transport – imagine a drone the size of a transit van, which can take half a dozen people up to 5Km quickly and with no fuss, paid for with a swipe of your embedded RFID chip. Maybe embedded chips are going too far – but the technology exists now.
AT : You stated that, “driverless cars, for example, will simply join the traffic queues – we need cross-city communication and coordination via the [5G] next generation of mobile network technology to unlock the potential of driverless platforms.” Tell us more!
AB : An autonomous vehicle is one that can drive safety and conduct itself with regard to road hazards like bikes and pedestrians. If we had thousands of them on the road they would create traffic jams. It’s certainly more efficient to separate autonomous and driven cars, but this segregation is not doable in dense urban environments where we can’t divide lanes.
Also, we will have to work on the human comfort factors around autonomous vehicles: a self-driving car might ‘think’ missing another car by a centimetre is acceptable, but that would scare most humans. Our robot car friends will have to adopt a more human approach to driving around us.
This is where 5G becomes relevant. Over the past decade we’ve moved from circuit-switching where, by design, networks routed data over multiplexed synchronous digital hierarchy bearers which literally bounced data up and down […]
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