EUGENE, Ore. – Only a handful of states have passed laws to allow self-driving or “autonomous” vehicles to operate on public roads.
Oregon is not one of those states.
But Matt Ginsberg of Eugene-based Connected Signals is looking ahead to when the state will allow testing of autonomous vehicles – and what those vehicles will need to safely navigate the Beaver State.
“Autonomous vehicles at the moment have a lot of trouble with traffic lights,” Ginsberg said. “There have been some spectacular failures.”
His team is using a modified Honda Civic sedan to run some field tests.
“Everything we’re doing – we have a driver, totally paying attention, hands either on the wheel or right next to the wheel,” he said.
The tests are on a system designed to help autonomous vehicles better detect traffic signals.
“It’s going to pick a speed that is both safe, so it’s not going to go too slowly, and is designed to make the next light,” Ginsberg said.
The device is the size of your typical smart phone; you mount it inside the car.
“Our system connects to the city lights and it allows you to control the speed of the car as well,” said Louie McCrady, project lead engineer.
It works by combining camera technology with city traffic signal data.
“The car is now slowing us down because it realizes the light in front of us, we’re going to miss,” Ginsberg demonstrated on a test drive along W. 7th Avenue. “You can see it just turned yellow so we are going to miss it.”
As the car approaches a red, it takes another approach.
“Now we did slow down – and we slowed down enough for the light to become green, so now we just cruise through it,” Ginsberg said.
It’s a system that McCrady and Ginsberg hope will be a turning point for future inner-city autonomous vehicle deployment.