Monday, June 17, 2013

I spotted Stanford's self-driving car

I saw Shelly headed over to Stanford last week
Last week on my way home from work, I spotted VW/Stanford's latest self-driving Audi TTS, Shelly.  These are the folks that brought us Stanley, the car that won the DARPA Grand Challenge back in 2005.  I managed to snap a picture (above) as it exited the highway.  The whole process would have been much easier if I had a self-driving car myself so that I could concentrate on taking pictures... maybe some day.  In the mean time, it was pretty cool to see this car since is is the one that raced up Pike's Peak and topped 120MPH on a track in Sacramento last fall... all driving itself.  Apparently the lap time on the track was comparable to that of a professional driver.  When I saw it on highway 280 last week, it was driving pretty gingerly; carefully using its turn signal and moving over to the exit ramp.

While self-driving cars aren't exactly common, one does see them around ever since they got the green light last fall.  There is always a driver in the driver's seat, but when in self-driving mode, they don't have their hands on the wheel.  It seems like I see the Google cars out driving fairly frequently, but this was my first time seeing the Stanford car.  It looks much more like a production ready vehicle because it doesn't have the big Street View camera on its roof.  I think it is all pretty exciting.

Those of you outside of Silicon Valley may not be quite so used to self-driving cars.  If you do, here is a little hint.  Don't get into an accident with one.  If you do, they have enough sensors and cameras to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that you were at fault.