Autonomous Cars and Drones Should Morph to Create a Hybrid Vehicle, MIT Says

MIT's CSAIL hybrid drone 1 photo
Autonomous cars have been called the solution to our traffic problems, but nobody really knows whether that will truly be the case. Because, at the end of the day, whether the cars drive by themselves or responds to the inputs of humans, they still take up the same space on the road.
Ah, but they will encourage people to use ride-sharing schemes and not own a vehicle, right? So? That might reduce parking problems in crowded cities, but the number of moving cars at one time is going to be the same, whether they're driven by their owners or not.

Finally, they say that inter-connected self-driving cars are going to be much better at exploiting every bit of space and every split of a second, reducing the time we are now wasting due to our inability to read the intentions of other drivers. That may be so, but they also say another thing: that autonomous cars will make car ownership available to people who didn't (or couldn't) drive before, meaning the number of vehicles on the road might actually rise, canceling any benefit regarding traffic flow.

Well, MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) believes that, in order to solve the congestion problems for good, autonomous cars would have to be able to turn into autonomous drones as well. At least for a short period of time.

The MIT team created tiny robotic drones that can switch from driving to flying on the go and travel on collision-free routes to reach their destination as quickly as possible. That's a huge step away from vehicles that can actually carry humans around, but that's not MIT's business. What they're trying to do is come up with the software necessary for it, and leave the full-scale hardware part to others.

And since everybody is focusing on autonomous driving exclusively at the moment, while companies such as Airbus or Uber are already developing VTOLs that can carry passengers, MIT might actually be one step ahead here.

“While there are obviously still big challenges to scaling up to vehicles that could actually transport humans," says Daniel Rus, the CSAIL Director, "we are inspired by the potential of a future in which flying cars could offer us fast, traffic-free transportation.”

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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