CMU’s Robot Car Hits the Highway

Carnegie Mellon engineers test their ‘autonomous’ car on a busy Cranberry Township highway. Does it work?

Photo courtesy of Carnegie Mellon Autonomous Driving Collaborative Research Lab


You’re doing your classic morning routine: Brushing your teeth. Browsing Twitter. Sleepily answering emails with an incredible amount of typos. Then, suddenly, a robotic voice tells you, “You have arrived at your destination.”

You car has come to a gentle stop in its familiar spot in your office parking lot. Welcome to the surprisingly near future, as dreamed up by Carnegie Mellon University engineers.

For more than a decade, CMU researchers have been working on an “autonomous” car that relies on three types of systems to guide the car's decision-making — sensors, lasers and cameras  — and get you where you need to go without actually driving. The researchers recently teamed up with General Motors to outfit a standard Cadillac SRX crossover with their equipment.

Last week, they hit the road with their robocar. Not on a closed course. On Route 19 (!) in Cranberry Township. NPR went along for the ride. The result was an often jerky but nevertheless incredible ride.


How close are we to this Brave New World? Raj Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon, thinks commercial robocars could be ready as soon as 2020.


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Categories: The 412