Driverless car software looks six seconds into the future

September 16, 2020 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Software for autonomous vehicles looks into the future
Researchers in Munich have developed software for driverless car systems that avoids accidents by computing multiple variants of a traffic situation and predicting probabilities.

A team at the Munich School of Robotics and Machine Intelligence at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed a software module that forecasts what happens around a driverless car. 

The vehicle's sensor data are recorded and evaluated every millisecond. The software now calculates all theoretically possible movements for each road user - at least as far as they are in accordance with the road traffic regulations. On this basis, the system looks three to six seconds into the future.

For example, as a car approaches an intersection and another vehicle comes out of the crossroads, it is not yet possible to tell whether it is turning right or left. At the same time, a pedestrian runs into the road directly in front of the car, while a cyclist is standing on the other side of the road. A person who already has a routine in road traffic will in most cases be able to correctly assess the movements of other road users. Driverless car software, on the other hand, finds it extremely difficult to cope with such situations. This means that accidents are likely - and acceptance of autonomous vehicles is declining.

Based on these probable scenarios, the system determines various movement options for the driverless car. At the same time, the programme calculates possible emergency manoeuvres with which the vehicle - by accelerating or braking - can be brought to a safe place without endangering others. Only if a trajectory can be travelled without a foreseeable collision and an emergency manoeuvre is possible at the same time, may it be used by the autonomous vehicle.

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