The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

September 4, 2013

Leave the driving to ... no one?

Shuster takes test ride in computer-operated car

PITTSBURGH — A congressman caught a cutting-edge ride to the airport on Wednesday.

Rep. Bill Shuster, a Republican from Hollidaysburg, made a 33-mile trip from Cranberry Township to Pittsburgh International Airport at about 11 a.m. in a computer-

operated car.

The so-called driverless Cadillac SRX was designed by Carnegie Mellon University researchers who have been working on the project since 2008. The car uses inputs from radars, laser rangefinders and infrared cameras to maneuver in traffic.

Shuster is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and he was accompanied by state Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch.

Shuster saw a Carnegie Mellon test vehicle about five years ago, and he said it was crammed so full of equipment that there wasn’t room for a person inside. Now, the 2011 Cadillac is basically a standard model with all the sensors and electronics discreetly hidden.

It didn’t look out of place on the drive to the airport, which began in a suburban area with stop-and-go traffic and then reached speeds of about 65 mph on a major highway.

A Carnegie Mellon engineer was in the driver’s seat as a safety precaution.

Shuster said he can now imagine a future where such vehicles enter the mainstream, potentially reducing accidents, fatalities and congestion on roads. But there’s also a military angle.

“It’s going to be great for our military to able to send vehicles into combat without people in them,” Shuster said.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency began holding competitions for driverless vehicles in 2004, and a Carnegie Mellon team won the 2007 race, along with a $2 million prize.

Raj Rajkumar, the leader of the Carnegie Mellon project, said the biggest design challenge for driverless vehicles is managing unpredictable events.

“It takes a long time to be taught all the things we know” about driving, Rajkumar said of the software.

“You can build a system that works correctly today – how do you know it’s going to work well tomorrow? Because it’s a new set of conditions, and you are unable to test all possible conditions.

“It’s an infinite number.”

Rajkumar thinks some driverless cars may reach the marketplace by 2020, though some experts say it will take longer. GM, Nissan and Google are all working on projects, as are other universities.

For now, engineers are still gathering data and running tests. A camera on the car recorded Shuster’s trip and streaming video is available online.

Carnegie Mellon also let local law enforcement know about the road tests, and one officer imagined a possible future where DUI’s no longer exist.

“It’s very intriguing,” Lt. Kevin Meyer of the Cranberry

Township Police Department said as he waited for Shuster to depart.

But Meyer added that law enforcement would have to adapt to such vehicles, too.

“We have to wait for the Pennsylvania laws to catch up with the technology that’s involved in this vehicle,” Meyer said, imagining a scenario where a driverless car is in an accident with one driven by a person.

“Who do we write up if there’s a violation?” Meyer wondered.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    Here are the names of the 10 entrants that were chosen today-April 24, 2014.  If you see your name, call the Circulation Department at 814-532-5000 (#1) or 1-866-307-0905 to verify your information.

    April 24, 2014

  • WilliamsA ‘I thought I was going to die’

    Hornerstown resident Robert “Bobby” Williams said he endured two hours of surgery, suffered a heart attack and fears he may never again be able to fully use his right arm.

    April 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    Here are the names of the 10 entrants that were chosen today-April 22, 2014.  If you see your name, call the Circulation Department at 814-532-5000 (#1) or 1-866-307-0905 to verify your information.

    April 22, 2014

  • JFD traing Firefighters practice river rescues

    Johnstown Fire Department members lift a “victim” out of the rescue basket during training Wednesday along the Stonycreek River flood-control wall

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • sewer meeting map Sewer work will tie up traffic

    Brace yourselves.
    This summer’s sewer main replacement project will delay traffic with detours, closed streets and lane restrictions through one of Johnstown’s notoriously snarled neighborhoods.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • USS Somerset USS Somerset arrives at San Diego homeport

    The USS Somerset is home.
    The amphibious transport dock ship named in honor of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 arrived at its new homeport of Naval Base San Diego on Monday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jablonski, Stephen Charges filed in courthouse bomb threat

    A Johnstown man was charged by Ebensburg Borough police Wednesday with threatening to blow up the Cambria County Courthouse, a call he admitted to Ebensburg police he made Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vizza, Peter Vizza voted deputy mayor

    The top vote-getter in last year’s Johnstown City Council election is now also the city’s deputy mayor.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Conemaugh Township rezoning opens business possibilities

    A portion of South Main Street in Davidsville will be rezoned to give greater allowances to the businesses along the road.

    April 23, 2014

  • Sculptor’s work to be raffled off

    The work of a local sculptor will be raffled off during the Art in Bloom show.

    April 23, 2014

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads