Scanning Brains and Driving Autonomous Cars at 120 MPH To Improve Safety at Any Speed

Saturday, 14 February 2015: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Room 230B (San Jose Convention Center)
Chris Gerdes, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
Stanford's autonomous race car, named Shelley, can zip around a 3-mile race track in under two and a half minutes, topping speeds of 120mph. And yet, it's still a few ticks behind the world's best human drivers. To understand what makes humans a shad faster on the track, Stanford engineers have outfitted legendary racers with electrodes that record their vital signs and brain activity as they drive. The researchers pair that physiological data with mechanical sensors from the car to try and reverse engineer driving algorithms that will make autonomous vehicles drive more fluidly. Pushing the car to its top speeds isn't just for fun; it's also the best way to learn what type of stress a car is under in a crisis, and what it takes to get the car straightened out. For example, the math involved in getting a spinning wheel to grip the pavement is very similar to recovering from a slide on a patch of ice. By understanding how the world's best drivers steer their way out of dangerous situations, and by teaching robotic cars to do the same, self-driving cars will be able to safely navigate more types of driving conditions.