Self Driving Car Video Reveals the Tantalizing Closeness of Autonomous Cars

The smartphone you check every five minutes could be the key to developing fully autonomous cars. This is according to researchers at the Korean electric vehicle producer Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), who recently showcased a significantly smarter version of the Tesla Summon feature. Their software uses a voice recognition app to call the car to the phone’s location.

This research builds upon how Tesla drivers can already move their vehicles up to 39 feet in a straight line using the car’s mobile app. Thanks to more refined mapping technology, ETRI’s self-driving software can autonomously switch lanes, make turns, and stop for pedestrians. This could one day enable you to, say, park in a crowded mall parking lot and have your car safely pull up to you once you’re done shopping. This development is nearing what is known as level 4 automation.

self driving car
ETRI researchers working on their self-driving car software ahead of the test run.

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The Society of Automation Engineers (SAE) has established five levels of autonomous car automation. Level 0 describes a car with no self-driving capabilities (not even cruise control) and level 5 refers to a vehicle capable of doing everything a human-steered car can all on its own. An ETRI press release stated that the technology being debuted fell between level 3 and level 4, or conditional to high automation. A car with these degrees of automation is not commercially available, which is precisely what makes this type of research necessary.

ETRI’s program uses mapping tech capable of creating precise maps on the fly. That means instead of simply using a GPS map, the vehicle uses sensors to detect traffic lights, bollards, landmarks, and other signals. This is what enabled the car to stop at a pedestrian walkway and make precise turns executed in the video seen above.

With this successful test run under their belt, ETRI plans on fine tweaking its algorithm in hopes of achieving level 5 automation. The team intends to share the data it compiles with other developers to help accelerate progress toward a self-driving car future.

A fifth of accidents overall take place in parking lots. That’s precisely what makes apps like Summon — which focus specifically on the first few minutes of a drive — such an important stepping stone. With the combined progress of not only ETRI and Tesla, but all of the industry’s collective resources, fully self-driving cars seem more and more like they’re just around the corner.

Media via ETRI