Robot Car To End Traffic Jams

10 October 2011, 16:06 | Updated: 10 October 2011, 16:30

Robotic technology that tells a car about its surroundings and help it make decisions about where to go without crashing is being developed at Oxford University.

While Global Positioning System (GPS) can tell humans where to go - something a bit more special had to be designed to help cars drive on their own.

The new technology's been installed on a 'Wildcat' vehicle (see above) designed by BAE systems.

It takes away the reliance on GPS, improves navigation precision, interprets local traffic conditions, tracks risks and offers a hands-free experience for the driver.

It interprets all the information with cameras, radars and lasers mounted on the car.

Professor Paul Newman from Oxford University's Department of Engineering Science is leading the research;

"Only by understanding its environment can an autonomous vehicle genuinely drive itself, safely, without the need for human intervention.

"Our long-term aim is to enable a new generation of robotic vehicles that can make the roads safer, less congested, cleaner, and personal transport more accessible. We do this by making smarter cars.

"We need cars that do the thinking and concentrating for you, cars that do not insist you do the driving all the time. If the going is slow why can't I watch the show I missed last night, skype with the kids, read a book or send that last email and elect the car to handle the drudgery of the trip for me?"

A recent parliamentary report suggested that the overall cost of road congestion in the UK to business is likely to rise to £23-24 billion a year within the next 15 years.

Experts at the Department of Transport believe that even if public transport is improved - people aren't willing to give up their cars, so autonomous cars would make journeys safer.

The Oxford research, supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and in collaboration with BAE Systems and Nissan, is among the first projects in the world to tackle the big challenges of creating an autonomous vehicle that can go anywhere and deal with all the situations it might encounter on the open road.