"Siri, drive me home."
Okay, so it's not quite that simple (yet) but Oxford University is testing out a driverless version of the Nissan Leaf electric car using technology controlled from an Apple iPad on the dashboard. The car is guided by a low-cost navigation system that gauges its surroundings through small cameras and lasers discreetly built into the body of the car and does not rely on GPS. The iPad flashes up a prompt offering the driver the option of taking over a portion of the route. Touching the screen can switch back to "auto drive" where the robot system takes over.
The system is currently being tested at Begbroke Science Park, near Oxford. The next stage of the research will work on enabling the new robotic system to understand complex traffic flows and to make decisions on the best routes to take, said Dr. Ingmar Posner, who is co-leading the project.
It's estimated that the current prototype navigation systems costs around 5,000 pounds (about $7,625 US) but, "Long-term, our goal is to produce a system costing around 100 (pounds) [$151 US]," said Professor Paul Newman, the other co-leader. A series of videos about the Robot Leaf is available below.
Speaking of driverless Nissan Leafs, you can view another video showing a prototype of a self-parking Leaf here. A right-hand Nissan backs itself at a 90-degree angle into a striped parking car so it can be wirelessly recharged. Drivers might soon be able to do quite a lot from the driver's seat of the Leaf without ever having to steer.