Skip to main content

From home or hospital to destination, self-driving system now includes scooters

Self Driving Mobility Scooter
An end-to-end self-driving system has been demonstrated in cars, golf carts, and now scooters. The achievement marks a milestone for autonomous vehicles.

“The solution works both indoors and outdoors,” Daniela Rus, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist and one of the project’s leads, told Digital Trends. “In other words, [it] provides an end-to-end solution starting with the home or hospital room all the way to the destination.”

For many handicapped people, it’s an everyday hassle to get from place to place without assistance. The researchers hope to provide mobility-impaired users more freedom by developing a system that works with multiple vehicle types, while fitting the system with features like ride booking and the ability to respond to immediate changes in the environment.

Developed by the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), and the National University of Singapore, the system is one of the first of its kind.

Courtesy of the Autonomous Vehicle Team of the SMART Future of Urban Mobility Project
Courtesy of the Autonomous Vehicle Team of the SMART Future of Urban Mobility Project

To test the system, researchers let it roam in Singapore before shipping it to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it explored MIT’s labyrinthine “infinite corridor.”

“The infinite corridor is a long corridor that does not have many features,” Rus says. “Localization is hard in such an environment. So, if we can handle such a sparse indoor environment, we can also handle hospital corridors, apartment buildings, and houses.”

One promising side note in the paper presented last week at the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Transportation Systems is the change in the judgments offered by users who tested the scooter system. Prior to riding the scooter, the average safety score reported by participants was 3.5 out of 5. After they used the scooter, that score rose to 4.6.

Rus thinks this illustrates some people’s prejudices to the technology. “People need to experience the technology to get comfortable with it and understand how it is useful,” she says.

Before introducing the system in the real world, Rus says she and her team would like to conduct more varied and longer studies to “stress test” the system.

Editors' Recommendations

Dyllan Furness
Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer from Florida. He covers strange science and emerging tech for Digital Trends, focusing…
Tesla issues stark warning to drivers using its Full Self-Driving mode
A Telsa Model 3 drives along a road.

Tesla in recent days rolled out a long-awaited update to its Full Self-Driving (FSD) mode that gives its vehicles a slew of driver-assist features.

But in a stark warning to owners who’ve forked out for the premium FSD feature, Tesla said that the software is still in beta and therefore “may do the wrong thing at the worst time.” It insisted that drivers should keep their "hands on the wheel and pay extra attention to the road.”

Read more
The future of mobility: 5 transportation technologies to watch out for
volocopter singapore tests 2019 volocopter2

The way we move about is changing -- and not just because, as the coronavirus pandemic recedes, we’re able to actually move about again. Transportation is changing around the world, thanks to new breakthrough technologies that promise to revolutionize the way we travel.

Whether it’s planes, trains, or automobiles, here are some of the key trends shaping the present -- and future -- of transport as we know it.
Autonomous vehicles
When you talk about the future of mobility, no piece of technology better sums up expectations than autonomous vehicles. Dismissed by experts as an impossibility less than two decades ago, self-driving cars have today driven tens of millions of miles, much of it on public roads. Big players in this space are split between tech companies like Alphabet (through its Waymo division) and China’s Baidu and traditional automotive companies like General Motors and BMW. Some firms, like Tesla, are a blend of the two.

Read more
The future of transportation: Self-driving cars? Try self-driving everything
GM electric flying taxi

Technology is reshaping every aspect of our lives. Once a week in The Future Of, we examine innovations in important fields, from farming to transportation, and what they will mean in the years and decades to come. 

Stroll around any CES (virtual or otherwise) in the last decade and it’s impossible to miss all the feels the tech industry has for transportation, self-driving cars in particular. Every major technology company has its fingers in cars, from the infotainment systems powered by Google and Apple to the operating systems driven by Blackberry and Linux to the components and circuits that make up the car itself, built by Qualcomm and Nvidia and NXP and a dozen more. (And don't get me started about this Apple Car nonsense.)

Read more