What's orange and electric and loaded with possibilities? The answer is the four driverless vans that arrived at the Shanghai Expo Thursday after successfully completing an 8000 mile journey from Italy to China.
Wondering how a convoy of orange vans without drivers or maps find their way across the Gobi Dessert? A computerized vision system calledÂ Generic Obstacle and Lane Detector collects information from the solar powered laser scanners and video cameras mounted on a van and uses that information to control the vehicle's speed and direction. There were only a few instances during the rigorous journey when the driverless vans required human assistance. Passengers had to help out when the vans were snarled in a traffic jam in Moscow and when it was necessary to pay at toll booths.
Thinking of these vans rumbling through remote areas and rugged terrain stirs the imagination.Â It's fun to envision an old farmer rocking on his shady porch while his tractor drives itself. How about fleets of driverless taxis that require no tips lined up at the airport where you've landed after a flight on a pilotless plane? Over the next decade we're going to being seeing some things we haven't imagined.