The iPad can do a lot of things, especially if you connect it with any of the many connected accessories available for iOS devices – but did you know the iPad can even control a self-driving car? Researchers ar Oxford University have modified a Nissan Leaf electric car, adding in equipment to enable the car to be self driving – and the brains behind the smart car is none other than the iPad!
The whole user experience is provided by an iPad which quickly guides the user through the few checks that are needed to induce autonomy. When it is safe to do so, the car offers the drive the chance to be driven automatically. Here is video showing that process. At any time the driver can take back control of the car by touching the brake – it’s exactly like cruise control in an existing vehicle – only this time the car sees obstacles, controls speed and steering. It feels very natural.
There are three computers onboard. The iPad, the LLC (Low Level Controller) and the MVC (Main Vehicle Computer). The iPad runs the user interface and demands constant attention from the LLC. If any of these computers disagree the driver will not be able to start autonomous driving. If at any point there is a problem when the car is in control the human driver is prompted to take control, if they fail to do so the car is automatically brought to a stop.
The goal of the project is to develop an affordable auto-drive system that could be integrated into almost any vehicle. The current prototype comes at a cost of about £5000, but Professor Newman, who is leading the project, hopes to eventually be able to reduce that cost to somewhere closer to £100. At that price, it would be affordable for a large percentage of drivers.
I have to say, this is one of the coolest uses of an iPad I have seen in a while. For more information, visit Oxford’s official Robot Car website!