This Humanoid Robot is Trying to Give Every Car Tesla-Like Self-Driving

The idea of a personal robot chauffeur might not be too farfetched.

A humanoid robot that can manually drive a car
Kento Kawaharazuka / YouTube

Autonomous software like Full Self Driving may end up being great for Telsa drivers, but what about everyone else?

A research paper out of Japan showed off an autonomous driving project that puts a humanoid robot in front of the steering wheel, driving a car that is decidedly not equipped with Tesla’s FSD Beta or any other self-driving software for that matter.

One of the researchers, Kento Kawaharazuka, posted a demo of the robot called Musashi, which is probably the truest example of a robot chauffeur we’ve seen.

This is a demo, so Musashi is still sluggish when it comes to approaching intersections and making turns — there’s no way it can handle all the variables of driving on a highway — but it does present a different solution to the same problem that Tesla is trying to solve with FSD.

A More Physical Approach

As seen in the demo, Musashi can recognize humans, traffic lights, and other cars, with its creepy movable eye unit. Not only that, the robot knows to stop if people dart in front of the car or when another nearby car honks its horn.

Compared to software-based autonomous driving, Musashi controls the car it’s driving just like a human. It has articulating fingers that can rotate a key to start the car, pull a handbrake, and even flip the turn signals on. On top of that, Musashi can account for some real-world driving scenarios, like when your foot slips from the pedal and how to quickly get back to the accelerator without getting stuck behind it. Unlike some drivers you see on the road these days, Musashi improves over time since it learns how to control the steering wheel better with smoother handling and less muscle tension the more it drives.

The researchers have only tested Musashi with a small EV in a closed course.


Still in Early Development

Before anyone gets their hopes up, Musashi still looks like a rough draft meant to demonstrate the conclusions of this research paper. The researchers said they’re looking to develop more hardware and software based on these early experiments, but don’t expect Musashi to get behind the wheel in the real world anytime soon. On the other hand, humanoid robots have been on the rise and we’re seeing more refined examples from both major companies and startups.

More importantly, Musashi brings up the question of whether we’re stuck with autonomous driving in the style of something like Tesla’s FSD or Mercedes-Benz’ Drive Pilot. After all, cars were designed with human bodies in mind, so Musashi could be a more intuitive and universal way to achieve self-driving cars — so long as you’re okay with sitting shotgun.

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