We all know that self-driving cars use cameras and sensors to understand where they are on the road; however, unpredictable variables such as bad weather conditions and poor lighting can still be a problem.
Usually, self-driving cars use LIDAR sensors to navigate; however, they are not advanced enough to operate perfectly in such conditions. Your car not being able to see the road markings can be a very big problem, especially on highway speeds.
In order to assist these problems, MIT researchers developed a system that lets vehicles see beneath the asphalt.
MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) came up with this new system called “Localizing Ground Penetrating Radar” (LGPR). The new technology can create a real-time map of the ground below the car.
LGPR works by sending electromagnetic pulses into the ground. By doing so, it measures the combinations of soil, rocks, and roots. These data are turned into a map such as this one for the self-driving vehicle to follow.
The CSAIL Ph.D. student Teddy Ort, who is the lead author of the project, stated, “If you and I grabbed a shovel and dug it into the ground, all we’re going to see is a bunch of dirt. But LGPR can quantify the specific element there and compare that to the map it’s already created, so that it knows exactly where it is, without needing cameras or lasers.
The new technology has only been tested at low speeds on a closed road that is covered in snow. You can watch the experiment here.
The system has more to go since it is not ready to be on the road yet. The team’s next goal is to continually refine the hardware and make it less bulky. After improvements, it can be used in combination with other technologies for a smooth ride.
You can get detailed information from their paper.