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Surprising Science

Have Your Car Talk To My Car

Researchers at MIT have created a communications network for autonomous cars that let them "see" what any other car in the area is seeing upon request. Multiple "eyes"create a continuous and widespread 3D view.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

CarSpeak, a communications system developed at MIT, allows autonomous cars — those that don’t require a human driver — to “see” parts of the environment through each other’s sensors. Together, a group of these cars driving in a particular area create an enormous cloud of data, but CarSpeak lets each car request the portions of data that apply to their immediate location. When tested on golf buggies in Singapore, the vehicles “were 14 times less likely to be involved in a collision with an unseen obstacle.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Humans are limited in terms of what they can see in their vicinity, but a car connected to CarSpeak has “eyes” not just around it, but beyond its immediate range. It’s easy to see how this data could improve driver, passenger, and pedestrian safety, and the next step in the research process will involve multiple full-sized cars. The individual sensors on a typical autonomous car are limited in range, but a network like CarSpeak “has the potential to make that footprint significantly larger.”

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