Watch a self-driving car negotiate Las Vegas streets jammed with pedestrians

Developing self-driving cars is complicated because the environment around them is complicated. Human drivers take for granted the ability to quickly identify other vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists, but getting machines to do the same is difficult. A new video shows how Torc Robotics gets its self-driving cars to play well with pedestrians.

As is usually the case with autonomous vehicles, it all starts with the sensors. Torc Robotics’ prototypes use the same trifecta of cameras, radar, and lidar as most other self-driving cars. The radar is also equipped with NXP TEF810x and MPC577xK chips that Torc claims “boost its perception capabilities.” This makes it easier to identify a person, but the car also has to know what to do once that happens.

Torc noted that pedestrians can’t always be counted on to follow the rules, so once one of its autonomous cars identifies one, it takes a more cautious approach until it knows what the person is doing.

“We balance assertiveness and safety around other vehicles … with caution around pedestrians,” Torc says in the video.

A fatal March crash involving an Uber self-driving car demonstrated what can go wrong when autonomous vehicles and pedestrians share the road. Traveling down a street in Tempe, Arizona, at night, the Uber vehicle struck and killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg, who was pushing a bicycle across the street outside of a crosswalk. Neither the car nor the onboard human backup driver reacted in time to prevent the collision.

Whether self-driving cars can reliably avoid collisions with pedestrians is an open question, as is how cars with no human driver behind the wheel will interact with the people they share streets with. With a person in the car to, for example, wave to indicate they are yielding the right of way, things might get confusing. Ford has gone as far as dressing up a person as a car seat to test how this will all work.

Torc hasn’t forced any of its testers to upholster themselves, but it does do things a bit differently than other autonomous-driving operations. The company is based not in Silicon Valley but Blacksburg, Virginia (it tests cars both in its hometown and in Las Vegas). Torc is also working with AAA to develop safety standards for self-driving cars. Torc was founded in 2005 and placed third in the 2007 DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Urban Challenge, but has kept a lower profile than many of its competitors.


What’s next for in-car entertainment? Audi believes it knows

Audi is bringing two technologies to CES 2019. The first turns a car -- a luxury sedan, in this case -- into a drive-in movie theater. The second is presented as a new entertainment format that turns the journey into the destination.

Have a spooky dance party at an abandoned mansion with Fortnite's new challenges

The Fortnite season 7, week 2 challenges have arrived in Battle Royale. From searching for chests to dancing off at an abandoned mansion, here's how to do them and the rewards you get for completing them.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.

2020 Toyota Supra caught hiding in a trailer without a shred of camouflage

Toyota's plan to once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms involves bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic nameplates. Here's what we know so far about the upcoming coupe, which Toyota is developing jointly with BMW.

Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.

NYC mandates minimum wage for Uber, Lyft, other app-based rideshare drivers

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a rule that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft must be paid at least minimum wage, even though they are independent contractors. The new pay rate includes operating costs.

LM Industries’ autonomous shuttles head to Phoenix, Sacramento campuses

LM Industries will deploy Olli low-speed autonomous shuttles at school campuses in Arizona and California as part of its ongoing "fleet challenge," which asks local groups to propose uses for autonomous vehicles.
Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.

Hertz speeds up car rentals with biometric scan technology

Biometric security technology that uses face, fingerprint, and voice recognition is gaining traction, with Hertz emerging as the latest company to incorporate it into its daily operations.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.

McLaren puts the pedal to the metal in special-edition OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is yet another flagship killer smartphone, bringing powerful specifications to a much lower price than the competition. Now, OnePlus has teamed up with McLaren for the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition.

Aston Martin’s 1,000-hp Valkyrie will boast the Mona Lisa of the engine world

Aston Martin has released new details about its F1-inspired Valkyrie hypercar. Co-developed with Red Bull Racing, the Valkyrie will be one of the most aerodynamic production cars ever made.