Turns your smartphone’s screen into a small, self-propelled robot that can drive itself, according to a new paper.
The researchers have already made some progress on developing the vehicle, but they’re still in the process of developing the software and sensors needed to make it work.
If successful, the vehicle could make a huge impact on the future of transportation.
The study, published online today in Science Advances, used a mobile phone to monitor a car’s motion and sensors that are already on the road to determine how much power it has and what kind of torque it can handle.
The device was equipped with a pair of sensors that can detect objects in a room, detect movement, and detect the presence of road signs.
It could also measure the distance to a wall and its height.
The team tested the device’s ability to make a turn using sensors from a laser scanner and a camera that could be placed on the car’s dashboard.
“It’s a big step forward, but we still have a lot of work to do to make sure that this is the vehicle we need to make autonomous cars for humans,” says Alex Mierzwinski, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the research.
“But it is a very exciting start.”
The team plans to improve the vehicle’s power and torque over time.
“The biggest challenge is that the sensor array that we used to detect objects is so big that it requires very high-resolution images and a lot more power,” says senior author Christopher Eriksen, a computer science researcher at Michigan.
“If we can make a smartphone with a large sensor array, it can become very fast and very powerful.
It’s like having a super-fast camera that can take huge pictures.
The smartphone has the potential to be the camera of the future.”
A smartphone camera.
Image: Christopher Ekinsen, University of Mich.
The sensors used in the device work by sensing the distance from a source object to a sensor array.
The sensor array itself has a sensor that’s mounted in the car, so that the car can see it and react to it.
“This array is the sensor on the outside of the car.
We’re using this array to measure the object and the distance that it’s moving away from the sensor,” Eriksens says.
When the car is at rest, the array is not active.
“So the sensor arrays can just keep monitoring the object without actually changing the behavior of the sensor in the vehicle,” Ekinsens says, adding that this allows the device to operate without worrying about collision.
In other words, the sensor will detect an object that is moving in the same direction as the sensor and act accordingly.
The vehicle can use the sensor to estimate how much energy the car has left in the battery, and then send an alert to the driver.
“Our idea is that it could be the sensor that can sense an object moving and decide whether to turn or not, and the car will turn,” Ericksen says.
“And the smart phone would send back a message telling the driver what to do.”
The sensor on top of the dash is capable of taking three different image resolutions.
“We were using a standard smartphone camera with an 8 megapixel sensor, but there’s a bunch of things you can do to optimize the resolution,” Eicksens says in an interview.
“One is to make the sensor bigger and more expensive, which is a good idea because that will make it much more sensitive.
So this is one of the areas we’re focusing on.”
The researchers plan to add sensors to the vehicle to give it better image quality, and also improve the sensors’ accuracy, as well as improve the software.
The phone is also being used as a controller to control the robot.
“Once we have the software, we can turn it on and off,” Eksens says as the team takes another step towards making the device a real robot.
The robot can move up and down and make small adjustments to the steering wheel.
The car can be driven autonomously or autonomously controlled using a smartphone app.
The app could also help the driver identify obstacles, as it could recognize when a driver is approaching.
The research team is also working on a more detailed version of the robot that could work as a driver.
If the device proves to be useful in the real world, Erikssens says that it would be an ideal platform for researchers to make better self-powered cars.
“What this shows is that if you can develop a way to get these devices on the roads, you can get them to be autonomous,” he says.
The project was funded by the National Science Foundation and by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency.
This article was originally published by New Scientist.