Despite the belief that fully autonomous cars and 18-wheelers will be commonplace by 2025, a researcher with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) told high school students attending a technology and engineering camp that concerns over liability and policy could delay the widespread implementation of self-driving vehicles.
“I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime, but it probably will happen in your lifetime,” Mike Lukuc, head of TTI’s Connected and Automated Transportation group, told the 14- to 18-year-old students attending the Cyber Innovation Camp.
The popular camp, presented by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and funded by the Texas Workforce Commission’s Governor’s Summer Merit Program, has been occurring for the last three years, attracting more applicants than there is space available, says TEEX Cybersecurity Training Coordinator Diane Cornwell.
“One of the goals of this camp is to introduce students to various careers in technology and engineering,” Cornwell said. “Hearing from researchers such as Mike Lukuc and Swaminathan Gopalswamy [of Texas A&M University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering] show them the real-world applications of the concepts they are learning in camp. Many students from previous camps say the program helped them decide what career path to pursue, including computer science or engineering.”
During the week-long camp, students worked on Raspberry Pi computers to learn programming, including how to program obstacle avoidance for robotic cars.
“There are about 35,000 deaths a year in the nation, and last year we had the largest increase in 50 years,” Lukuc told the students. “Almost all six million crashes each year are related to driver error. That’s really the reason the federal government and industry are looking at vehicle-to-vehicle communication and automation: to take away driver error.”
Lukuc presented information about TTI’s Truck Platooning project, while Gopalswamy talked about his work with the Connected Autonomous and Safety Transportation program, a RELLIS Campus initiative.
“The complexity of developing autonomous vehicles is mind boggling. But the benefits of self-driving cars is obvious and quite large,” Gopalswamy said. “I wanted to introduce these kids to the kinds of things we are doing, highlighting the possible areas they could be interested in, and give them a glimpse of the challenges we face.”