A robot copilot for your car

Sure, there are seat belts and airbags to help you survive a collision. This new system might help you avoid the collision in the first place.

Mechanical engineeers have developed a new safety system for your car, involving what they call an “intelligent copilot,” MIT announced today (July 13, 2012). It only takes over your vehicle when you make a mistake serious enough to cause a collision.

The system uses an onboard camera and laser rangefinder to identify hazards in a vehicle’s environment. The team devised an algorithm to analyze the data and identify safe zones — avoiding, for example, barrels in a field, or other cars on a roadway. The system allows a driver to control the vehicle, only taking the wheel when the driver is about to exit a safe zone. The video above explains more.

Sterling Anderson, a PhD student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Karl Iagnemma, a principal research scientist in MIT’s Robotic Mobility Group, devised this system. I want to see them add this system to the flying car concept. And why not? Airplanes have had autopilot for decades.

Bottom line: Sterling Anderson of MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Karl Iagnemma of MIT’s Robotic Mobility Group have developed what they call an intelligent copilot for cars.

Deborah Byrd