Smarter Smart Vehicles
A new generation of “smart” cars that enable safer, stress-free, efficient and enjoyable driving will soon hit the road thanks to research in the Laboratory for Intelligent and Safe Automobiles (LISA) at UC San Diego, led by electrical engineering professor Mohan Trivedi.
LISA’s vision for intelligent vehicles is what Trivedi calls a human-centered distributed cognitive system, in which humans and robots cooperate with each other, rather than compete with each other. “This distributed cognitive system should be able to learn and execute perceptual, cognitive and motor functions in a synergistic manner, where humans and machines both understand the strengths and limits of one another,” said Trivedi. A main goal of LISA, he added, is not for the car to completely take over the driving, but to better understand the driver to help avoid accidents and navigate through chaotic situations
Over the last 15 years, LISA researchers have developed technologies to monitor and understand what’s happening both inside and outside cars on the road. The team equips its vehicles with cameras and other sensors to observe the movement of the driver’s head, eyes, hands and feet and to monitor the surrounding traffic. They then use these data to develop machine vision and machine learning algorithms that can learn the driver’s patterns and predict the driver’s intended maneuvers a few seconds before they happen.
Members of LISA in front of an intelligent testbed vehicle
Left to right: Frankie Lu, Mohan Trivedi, Sean Lee, Ravi Satzoda
Moving forward, LISA researchers are developing intelligent driver assistance systems that assess when it’s safe to merge, brake, change lanes, accelerate and decelerate. So if drivers take their eyes off the road and begin swerving, cars could momentarily take control of steering and braking to avoid obstacles and collisions. During his talk at the Contextual Robotics Forum last October, Trivedi announced that these intelligent assistance features will be installed in the Audi A8 in 2017. Other versions of these systems are also being adopted for consumers in Asia and Europe.