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From Italy to China on an empty tank

luglio 24, 2010 Technology No Commenti

Since we are talking about vehicles that can recharge themselves, let’s go back to the Mother Earth, and more precisely in Italy, in the city of Parma, where technicians from the VisLab laboratory of the local University have launched a very ambitious project, that is, the intercontinental road trip of an autonomous vehicle, capable of driving itself and recharging its batteries thanks to solar panels mounted on the roof.

Two of these vehicles, strictly without a pilot, have just left Parma, and the final destination of their trip is Shanghai in China, where they are expected to arrive in approximately three months, covering approximately 90 kilometers per day at a maximum speed of 60 kilometers per hour, of course while using absolutely no polluting fuel but only feeding on the clean energy harnessed by the solar panels.

To make sure that all runs smoothly, the two vans will be following a bigger van, acting as expedition leader and driven by a real human; and inside the two automated minivans, during the autonomous drive part of the journey, there will be an auxiliary driver in flesh and blood, ready to intervene in case of emergency.

These vans are equipped with a varied array of control and orientation devices: along with the requisite GPS navigation system, there are laser scanners, sensor to detects obstacles on the road such as rocks or potholes, video and photo cameras to document the trip and keep in video contact.

If you want to follow the journey live, the project site features a webcam, where one can see the trip in real time. We will stay tuned in 3 months, and we really hope (not only as fellow Italians) that the project has a happy end, as it might open new perspectives in the field of autonomous vehicles, which so far has been basically monopolized by military applications.

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