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Robotics Transportation Hardware Technology

Stanford Robot Car Capable of Slide Parking 265

kkleiner writes "Stanford's Junior, the robot car that took second place at DARPA's Grand Challenge in 2007, has learned how to perform a tire-squealing 180-degree spin into a skin-tight parking space. Similar to a James Bond action scene, the maneuver is impressive and would be extremely difficult for a human to pull off. We won't be handing the keys over to robot cars anytime soon, but Stanford shows us that at least for some driving tasks robot cars can already meet or even exceed human ability."

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Stanford Robot Car Capable of Slide Parking

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  • by bziman ( 223162 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @10:36PM (#32189014) Homepage Journal
    Do notice all the tire tracks that don't lead into the parking spot? Like all of the robotics projects I've been involved in, this took a LOT of tries.
  • Autonomous? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @10:36PM (#32189020) Homepage
    If a robot does exactly what it is programmed to do, is that autonomy? Is sounds like they programmed it to perform this maneuver (going backward at a decent speed and sliding into a specific zone), and then it did (after several failures apparently).
  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @10:49PM (#32189090) Homepage Journal
    1. Guided missiles have been able to direct a few hundred pounds of ordnance traveling at mach 5 into a spot the size of a trash can for the last few decades now. The fact that a computer can park a car with perfect precision - while cool - is hardly revolutionary.
    2. Liability and lawyers have done more to keep advancements like these from the market than any engineering challenge every has. The first time a car parallel parks into a toddler, you can kiss the feature goodbye.
    3. While I don't intend any sexism, the fact is that parallel parking is difficult, and many women would rather have the car do it than try it themselves. Parking assist (without the tire-scorching 180) is going to be a very popular feature among the minivan crowd.
    4. This is *really bad* from a freedom perspective. As soon as computers can reliably and safely drive cars, anyone who *dares* drive the car themselves will be considered negligent; they'll probably pass a law against it. And with pervasive networking, you can be assured the police will have the ability to remotely disable your vehicle, should the need arise (the can already do it with GM vehicles, which is problematic enough...). I do not look forward to a future where my movement *in my own vehicle* can be arbitrarily and capriciously monitored and regulated remotely.
  • Re:Rude-bot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dudpixel ( 1429789 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @10:54PM (#32189108)

    c'mon, if a robot car took your park using the awesome sliding maneuver, you'd have to give it the thumbs up.

  • Re:Three Points (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dudpixel ( 1429789 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @10:57PM (#32189130)

    3. That would be a disaster for pretty much any human attempting that sort of maneuver. I'd probably still put my faith in robots.

    To put one's faith in a robot, is to put one's faith in the [ability/morality etc of the] human(s) who designed said robot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @11:01PM (#32189150)

    While I don't intend any sexism ...

    Then why did you make any reference to gender at all? You could have made the exact same point without introducing any stereotypes.

  • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @11:07PM (#32189170) Homepage Journal

    Well, except for the part that you very likely could have killed yourself and two other people, possibly more. You were extremely lucky, as 99 times out of 100, when you lose control of your car while swerving, EXTREMELY bad things happen. The fact that this once it didn't doesn't make this an awesome story, it makes it a bit of a sad one to hear that your stupidity was rewarded.

    What you did shouldn't be glorified. These maneuvers are exciting to watch on television and in the movies when performed by professionals with years of training and under extremely controlled conditions (and, incidentally, medical personnel immediately ready in case of accidents, some of which have killed even those professionals). But frankly, it sounds to me like the guy who was pissed off wasn't the asshole. I would have been pissed off too, and would have rather taken the damn bus than ride with you again. Maybe after two or three people you know are killed in car wrecks, you'll look back on this story and "awesome" will no longer be the word you use to describe it.

    Seriously. I feel like you're saying, "I played Russian Roulette with FIVE bullets loaded in the gun, and I won! It was awesome!" No, it wasn't awesome. You were a dumbass.

  • by trawg ( 308495 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @11:11PM (#32189194) Homepage

    While I don't intend any sexism, the fact is that parallel parking is difficult, and many women would rather have the car do it than try it themselves. Parking assist (without the tire-scorching 180) is going to be a very popular feature among the minivan crowd.

    heh every girl I know is awesome at parallel parking. I (male) have done it a grand total of twice in the more than ten years since I got my license; I would rather drive another few metres and walk a bit further than embarrass myself trying and hold up traffic.

    I know it's the sort of thing I would learn with practice, but I drive infrequently and its just not a skill I need where I live, so I just can't do it.

    For me, driving is a painful chore that I must do to get from point A to point B. I know some people enjoy it but I find it tiresome, boring, and a waste of time. I cannot wait for the day that I can get in my car and punch in a destination and sit back and read a book or idly stare out the window!

  • by Sibko ( 1036168 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @11:16PM (#32189232)
    While I agree there are some issues with freedom therein, I can also see how taking control of motor vehicles out of the hands of the general person, and into the hands of a computer is going to massively improve safety.

    Think of all the dangerous maneuvers and careless driving you've seen. That will be no more - speeds on highways can be increased, distances between cars can be decreased. You won't be driving the car yourself anymore, but you'll get to your destination faster and more safely than you do now.

    Anyways, I very much doubt manually driving a vehicle will ever disappear. Driving is fun, it's something people enjoy - what this will simply do is eliminate all those times you wouldn't have fun driving, by giving control over to the computer whenever you feel like stopping.
  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @11:34PM (#32189322) Journal
    If one parks a car this way, is it possible to un-park it?
  • Meh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BluBrick ( 1924 ) <blubrick AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @11:36PM (#32189330) Homepage
    I'll get the car into the tight spot - call me when the car can autonomously find a parking spot.
  • by mmaniaci ( 1200061 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @11:40PM (#32189344)

    anyone who *dares* drive the car themselves will be considered negligent

    That's about the only thing you said I agree with. Driving is stupidly dangerous [] and I can't wait until computers are driving every car on the road. Freedom? Pfff, driving a car doesn't make you free. The idea is just marketing done by the auto industry to make you feel American and Free by buying 5 cars per family and the gas that goes with 'em.

    Also, there is a HUGE FUCKING DIFFERENCE between a bomb, where the payload is intended to destroy, and a car carrying passengers. Think about fault tolerance...

  • by HBoar ( 1642149 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @12:13AM (#32189480)

    Yeah, he's one of the best- but he's doing that in a 500hp AWD car, not a 100HP FWD diesel station wagon, at speeds several times higher than what Stanford was doing.

    It's a hell of a lot easier to pull off maneuvers like that in a powerful, lightweight, AWD car set up for sliding than it is in a family wagon....

    Do you know anything about control theory? At all? It certainly doesn't sound like it. They're not just programming the car what to do and when, the car sees where the cones are and works it out for itself.

  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @12:14AM (#32189482) Journal

    "Succeed" is clearly defined by ending within the desired rectangle with the precision of 2 feet. It's all in TFA (*sigh*). It even points out that it's nowhere near enough to safely park the car in real-life scenarios.

    The point is that no-one came up with a working model that could do what they're doing on the video before.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @12:42AM (#32189604)

    You are wrong, whether or not you are willing to admit it. It is, actually, awesome.

    His actions being stupid, reckless, and dangerous are not detractors from this being awesome. In fact, the reckless and dangerous part, in combination with nobody getting hurt, are the very things that make this awesome.

    You clearly have a bad concept of awe. You yourself believe this event to be one in a hundred, yet he rolled that magic one on his first roll (roll being the metaphor for uncontrolled swerve, not swerving in general).

    This should inspire awe, and is therefore awesome.

    Now, don't forget to drink your prune juice, Grandpa Killjoy McPoopyPants.

  • Re:Three Points (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Freeman ( 933986 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @01:04AM (#32189680)
    Why is this modded informative? This should be modded troll.

    "2. Parking like this is stupid and wears down the tires unevenly and too fast."
    Obviously the point isn't that this is an efficient parking method, it's that it's a fucking awesome method that's being performed by a ROBOT. Of course you can't do this on problematic conditions, that ain't the fucking point in the first place.
  • by e4g4 ( 533831 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @01:13AM (#32189708)

    I didn't realize he was a TEENAGER, that makes it all right. I forgot that teenagers are invincible

    The point is - he was a teenager. His UID belies the fact that he's no longer a teenager. I'm pretty sure that he doesn't swerve side to side across the road anymore, or carpool to high school. I'm willing to bet that he doesn't drive in an unsafe manner at all, anymore. I'm also willing to bet that the reason for that is due, in part, to that little story. Have you ever been behind the wheel of a car that, even momentarily, was completely out of your control? Did it give you a fear-for-your-life adrenaline rush that you'll never forget? Unless you are a stunt driver, if the answer to that first question is yes, the answer to the second is _always_ yes (unless you were drunk, but that's a whole 'nother can of worms).

    In conclusion, I'd be happy to find you the number of a proctologist who can help you with that stick problem.

  • by sl149q ( 1537343 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:09AM (#32189896)

    Look at what the intense lobbying and marketing going into anti-drunk driving. The best example being MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.) To (rightly) save +10,000 people a year from being killed.

    Once we have robotic controlled cars that can reduce traffic accidents by a suitable amount there will be a similar incentive to get rid of the bad driving of humans. Think MAHD (Mothers Against Human Drivers.) And I think saving another 10,000 plus people a year and further reducing insurance rates etc will make it worth it. People will be able to work or entertain themselves during their commute instead of trying to multi-task and get into accidents.

  • by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @03:34AM (#32190180)

    "censorship= evil" etc, but basically you don't want to make it so easy for teenagers to get stupid ideas

    No, no, no. If you allow it for a good reason, people start doing it for bad reasons.

    Just don't censor the videos of teenagers doing stupid-ass stunts and ending up as chunky hamburger. And make them compulsory in Drivers Ed.

  • Re:Three Points (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @05:08AM (#32190554)

    Hell, you're putting your life in a computer's hands on a second-by-second basis just by being within ten miles of a nuclear power plant.

    Most nuclear power plants have containment buildings around their reactors, that keep anything bad from happening to anyone even if the reactors were to blow up. Newer ones also have reactor designs which the laws of physics prevent from blowing up, no matter what the controller does.

    But hey, keep on scaremongering, so we can keep on enjoying breathing coal ash.

  • by Krneki ( 1192201 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @06:01AM (#32190768)
    Leave the AI to drive your car and if you feel bored play the last car simulation while you wait to arrive at your destination.

    There is no reason we have to wait stuck in traffic because you feel you are losing your freedom to drive like a jackass. :)
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @06:08AM (#32190812) Journal

    What's always interesting about those statistics is how big a difference recessions make (fewer people rushing to work, fewer accidents) and how little difference speed limits make.

  • Re:News at 11 (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:43AM (#32191344)

    So, about 0.011% of the population died from a car accident last year. Whoop-tee doo. It's totally crazy fucking dangerous, Mr. Little! It's inevitable: you're going to die.

    In 2001, 0.001% of the US population died in terrorist attacks. In the past 10 years, 0.0001% of the population has died annually from terrorist attacks. This has motivated $1T wars in middle east ($30k per capita), $7B annual spending on TSA ($20 per capita per annum), and a national campaign of fear. Proportional to the risk, we should be spending somewhere around $100T/year on highway safety and law enforcement. Instead, CHP has a budget of $2B, and national spending is less than $100B.

    So, either we need to increase highway safety enforcement about 1000-fold (which should easily buy us each our own robot controlled car), or we should reduce war-on-terrorism spending by 1000 fold

  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @09:49AM (#32192600)

    Wow, way to miss point and be an idiot at the same time.

    You must get really pissed off when people show off their computer programs that do natural language processing. I mean a 6 year old do better, and we manage to teach almost anyone to do it without difficulty much better than the stupid computer can.

    Or their little robots doing stuff with video recognition in order to recognize and move blocks around - I mean toddlers can do that!

  • by otter42 ( 190544 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:17AM (#32192940) Homepage Journal

    1) Yeah, that's just wrong, and missing the point. We can guide missiles into tiny spots because we have incredibly good models of their flight path. We can drive a car into a tiny spot in exactly the same way. What's interesting here is that they mix together a LQR controller with open-loop, in a way that does not require hand-tuning and gives excellent, repeatable results.

    If we had a dynamic model of the car as it were sliding sideways, I'm sure we could use Lie brackets to discover all sorts of interesting accessible trajectories. But we don't. So this is pretty good control, and might quite possibly be a step toward the type of controller we have in our brain (able to use a combination of open-loop (I did this last time and it worked) and closed-loop (what I'm doing isn't working, I need to adjust) controls)

    2) True, but even more likely: if your automatic-parking Mercedes scratches my car while parallel parking, who's responsible for the damage? You (as the driver) or Mercedes (who promised that this feature would work)?

    3) As another poster stated, since you don't mean it, it must come naturally. I think many people find parallel parking a chore and would rather have a machine do it for them.

    4) Yup, tough toodles, kid. Your freedom to kill others is only a freedom to the point at which we cannot find a better solution. If you were complaining about not being able to go somewhere you want, I would be behind you 100%. However, you seem to be complaining that you consider it a freedom to drive how *you* want to. Considering the atrocious results (both accident rates and people making moronic decision to buy tank sized SUVs because "they're safer"), this "freedom" is pretty poorly exercised.

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:40AM (#32193254)

    We don't need fancy robots; we need better driver training. In the US, you demonstrate basic proficiency in skills that matter 95% of the time when everything is going swimmingly, answer a very limited subset of the rules/laws of the road, and then get handed your license, and never need to do any of that again. Why are we shocked when people then miserably fail when the shit hits the fan? In other countries, you have to learn and demonstrate actual car handling skills, like recovering from a skid...and people routinely fail the driving tests on the first try, because it's actually difficult.

    I think in most states you need more training to own a firearm than you do to be handed the keys to 2 tons of metal that causes 40,000 deaths a year. The culture here is so poor that people use the term "accident" to describe collisions.

    We also need laws that make it criminal negligence if you distract yourself to the point of not controlling your vehicle properly and cause a collision.

  • by Toze ( 1668155 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @11:26AM (#32193884)


    Thank you for building the future. It looks neat.

    Respectfully yours,
    The present.

  • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:24PM (#32197018)

    We don't need fancy robots; we need better driver training

    Yes Comrade, and as soon as we create the New Soviet Citizen, communism will work.

    Anytime your plans call for people suddenly and magically becoming smarter or more responsible, you have an issue.

Forty two.