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Press Release

Chriss Swaney

For immediate release:
February 9, 2005

Carnegie Mellon Researchers Are Driving Force Behind Emerging New Smart Car Technologies

PITTSBURGH—A team of Carnegie Mellon University Electrical and Computer Engineering researchers received funds for ongoing research from General Motors to continue smart car research that will revolutionize the way vehicles and drivers interact.

The research aims to make the vehicle of the future more aware of driver needs, traffic and weather conditions, and other external information using on-board sensors and wireless data networks.

"What we are seeing now is that the car is no longer this discreet, independent object, but rather the spoke in a complex web of sensor technology that will ultimately link us to the world," said Ed Schlesinger, head of Carnegie Mellon's Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department.

One of the many projects under way in the General Motors Collaborative Lab at Carnegie Mellon is peer-to-peer networking, the ability to turn the car into a mobile sensor.

"Essentially, what we are doing is allowing vehicles to relay information between themselves and the Internet at large," said Dan Stancil, a professor in ECE and a collaborative lab team member.

The team has installed laptop computers, GPS antennas and webcams in four GM vehicles, creating an ad hoc mobile wireless network. The network provides the driver with a cache of critical information designed to keep drivers and passengers safe and on time wherever they may be headed.

Carnegie Mellon researchers are working to develop an automatic stop sign detector for vehicles by mounting cameras on vehicles to measure the amount of time it takes drivers to stop at dangerous intersections. The team also is working on a number of projects focused on the manner in which cars are designed and how the systems within the vehicle configure themselves to optimize the overall system performance.

The peer-to-peer networking team includes engineering students Rahul Mangharam, Jake Meyers, Suchit Mishra and Dan Weller. The director of the Carnegie Mellon/General Motors Collaborative Research Laboratory is ECE Professor Raj Rajkumar.


Carnegie Mellon Engineering Researchers Build New Technologies for the Family Car

PITTSBURGH—Will we still drive our cars, or will our cars drive us?

We already have onboard navigation systems and infrared night vision and in-car satellite links and antiskid brakes and other electronic Samaritans ready to take control when we screw up behind the wheel.

Just around the corner, according to Carnegie Mellon University researchers, are smart highways embedded with millions of tiny sensors and even smarter cars that are constantly aware of the traffic that is flowing around them. Drivers in the not-too-distant future will navigate from their home to the nearest freeway entrance ramp, at which time the collision-detection computer will take over. Commuters will barrel down the highway at 120 m.p.h. with only a few inches between their car and the next. But will they worry?

No, they will be checking the NASDAQ and gabbing on the cell phone and searching eBay until they reach their programmed exit—ushering in the age of fully automated motoring first promised in General Motor's spectacular "Futurama" exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

"There is simply no limit to what we can achieve as the technology improves," said Ed Schlesinger, head of Carnegie Mellon's Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and founding director of the university's General Motors Collaborative Lab. "Cars will become nodes in a worldwide network delivering information to that network and getting information from it. You won't have to search for a place to stop for lunch; for example, the car will make recommendations based on your likes and dislikes," he said.

Already Carnegie Mellon researchers are developing technology that will make it possible for cars to communicate giving drivers critical information about road conditions, traffic and, ultimately, where the best parking spot can be found. Through a new peer-to-peer networking system, Carnegie Mellon researchers are turning the family car into a mobile sensor capable of detecting traffic snarls and icy roads.

"That information can help drivers quickly change routes or modify speed to prevent serious accidents," Schlesinger said.

Industry analysts also report that cars equipped with network sensors could help control traffic patterns. For example, a typical highway lane can accommodate 2,000 vehicles per hour, but with increased automation that capacity could be expanded to 6,000 per hour depending on the spacing of road entrances and exits and the ability of peer-to-peer networks to monitor a vehicle's location and velocity.

Carnegie Mellon researchers are working to create the new car of the future equipped with the latest wireless networks and Global Positioning Satellite technology designed to keep drivers and passengers safe and on time wherever they are headed.

A number of projects are focused on the manner in which cars are designed and how the systems within the vehicle configure themselves to optimize the overall system performance.

One of the many projects Carnegie Mellon has worked on includes the gesture interface, the ability to point or wave to control the car's electronic system. The team installed cameras to watch for gestures that would normally serve as the driver's commands. There were also microphones attached to the driver's seat belt so the vehicle's speed recognition system could accept verbal commands from the driver.

"Our goal is to present this information in a way that enhances the driving experience and creates systems that increase safety," Schlesinger said.

Other GM lab work includes studying ways to make the car's computer systems be more "context aware." By context aware, researchers mean that a computer system will know enough about the driver and the vehicle's surroundings that it can anticipate when a driver needs certain information.

More than 150 Carnegie Mellon engineering alumni now work at GM plants and labs worldwide. In 2003, Carnegie Mellon received $8 million from General Motors to support research at the GM Collaborative Lab at Carnegie Mellon.


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