Riding in a Robocar That Sees Around Corners

By Philip E. Ross

Communication is a sixth sense that lets us see through other people’s eyes and thus through walls, over the horizon, and around corners. “Look out for that lion,” someone said to our ancient ancestor, and that’s why we’re standing here today.

Birds do it, with their calls; bees do it, with their waggle dance. Now cars are doing it, with wireless systems.

I saw it at first hand yesterday, at MCity, a mock cityscape—complete with Hollywood-style street facades—that the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, has set up to test self-driving cars. The place is littered with antennas, power outlets, and cameras, including an eye in the sky—a quadcopter from a local aerial photography company.

I sit in a Kia Soul, along with Gabor Orosz, a professor of mechanical engineering, and a student, as we head into a bend shrouded in shrubbery. Suddenly we come upon a car parked right in the middle of the road, and Gabor hits the brakes with a screech. “If we’d had icy weather, there’s no way I could stop the car,” he says.[READ MORE]