Thursday February 04, 2016

WEpod Becomes First Driverless Car to Play in Traffic

A system of automated electric vehicles, known as WEpods, just made history by becoming the first self-driving shuttles to take to public roads. They’re the first vehicles in the world without a steering wheel to be given license plates. Unlike other forms of automated transport, these cheery little six-passenger vehicles don’t travel in special lanes, and they’re not guided by rails, magnets or wires. Instead, they’re steered through traffic by a complex set of systems, including several NVIDIA-powered brains, between the towns of Wageningen and Ede in the central Dutch province of Gelderland. To summon a WEpod, passengers just tap on an app on their smartphone.

The story behind this first: a new kind of technology آ— called deep learning آ— that lets computers teach themselves about the world through a training process that is widely adopted for vision-based systems. Deep learning has already given computers the ability to surpass human capabilities on a number of tasks. And it’s critical for autonomous vehicles, where it’s just not possible to hand-code for every possible situation a self-driving car might encounter. Especially with regards to interpreting the objects surrounding the vehicle. No wonder, then, that the WEpod team at the Delft University of Technology آ— along with auto manufacturers such Audi, BMW, Ford and Mercedes آ— have turned to deep learning on NVIDIA GPUs.

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