LAKELAND, Fla — Professor A.J. Alnaser is turning this tricked-out Ford Fusion by moving his head, no hands needed.
“To our knowledge, nothing has been done like this for any car.”
A camera on the dashboard is set to read his face.
“It’s kind of like how your smartphone works with gesture control. It’s meant to be a solution for disabilities. I personally have a friend with a disability and I know a solution like this would have made his life a whole lot easier," he said.
Alnaser and fellow professor Onur Toker at Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland is part of a team that used a grant to buy this $100,000 Ford Fusion with some very special upgrades.
They are using it to develop their own autonomous driving software.
And the ability to test other self-driving systems.
“By getting the information from the camera and other sensors, the computer software can do some AI-based decision-making and control the steering, the brakes, acceleration.”
While Telsa and other carmakers have versions of self-driving cars already on the road, the work here is to reach new heights.
“When you get to level 5 autonomy in a car, you really shouldn’t need a steering wheel. You shouldn’t have any controls. The car will control itself.”
The professors say the number of automotive crashes that could be prevented by autonomous technology is motivating the industry to move fast.
“I think it will take some time but it will eventually be a standard. There are legal issues, ethical issues, technical issues that should be addressed carefully. But eventually, we are going in that direction.”
“At the end of the day, it’s a safer driving experience. It’s safe for everybody. And it will change how things are, I think for the better.”
Students are helping with the research too.
It’s all in the very early stages.
No highway driving yet, and the car is moving very slowly. But the progress is moving quickly.