If you happen to be driving on route from Italy to China between now and October then don’t be freaked out if you happen to come across two bright orange vans with no drivers at the wheel, it’s just a VisLab project in action.
For the first time in history, the vehicles will be making the epic driverless trip in a bid to demonstrate the automated technology VisLab have been working on for years. What’s even better is that the vans won’t even be polluting the planet in the process.
“After about two decades of continuous research on Intelligent Vehicles, VisLab is preparing to set a new worldwide milestone in the field of Vehicular Robotics” it says on the VisLab Intercontinental Autonomous Challenge website.
“Autonomous vehicles are being prepared and tested to drive with no human intervention from Parma, Italy, to Shanghai, China, along a 13,000 km and 3 months unique journey.”
The vans are running on electrical power and the electronic pilot is powered by solar energy.
On the trip some goods will be loaded up in Rome and some will be collected on the way. As a precaution and in case of the need for intervention there will also be other vehicles and technicians following the vans on the trip, including vehicles for media coverage and live broadcasting.
The first vehicle will conduct some experimental tests on sensing, decision and control subsystems, and the second will automatically follow the route defined by the first vehicle using GPS if the first vehicle happens to be out of the line of sight.
There will be virtually no human intervention although some is obviously required to define the route.
“What we are trying to do is stress our systems and see if they can work in a real environment, with real weather, real traffic and crazy people who cross the road in front of you and a vehicle that cuts you off” said Alberto Brogg, the project leader, reported by the Daily Telegraph.
Self drive vehicles are nowhere near ready to be introduced into the mainstream market but the technology is being perfected all the time and if this trip is successful, that day won’t be too far away.
If you want to follow the vehicles on their route you can do so on the Intercontinental Challenge website where live streaming will be available throughout the whole trip which is scheduled to end on 10th October.