Driving assistant

Recently I completed the udacity class “programming a robotic car”, where Sebastian Thrun thought us what makes the self driving cars tick. He drew from his experience of winning the DARPA grand challenge in 2005. Now he’s leading the Google self driving car project. It was a very interesting course. Some stuff was already covered in the ai-class, but was a lot more detailed this time. We got homework assignments in python that we could complete directly within the website’s integrated editor. So, we implemented some of the key components in simpified form. Namely Kalman Filters, Particle Filters, Motion Planners with smoothing, and last and most interresting, SLAM.

So, a while ago an idea started forming in my head. Todays smartphones should be powerfull enough to run some computer vision algorithms to help the driver identify obstacles, or warn him when he’s about to leave the lane. In fact, some premium cars already have such systems installed. First I looked in the android market, but found nothing. So I started looking around for how to integrate OpenCV in Android. I knew this part had been done before. I was not too keen to start yet another time consuming toy project, as I’m very busy at the moment. Another more extensive search in the Android market revealed some apps. And I was releaved to find some that implemented just what I was thinking about. There are two that I installed on my phone and am currently testing. Although I must confess, instead of increasing the security, they can also distract.

Drivea

The first app that I installed was Drivea. It may not be as polished as competing apps, but I like it when yu have the feeling, you know how it works. On my Galaxy S it runs smoothly without any problems other than some inaccuracies in the classifiers. Would be great if ot were opensource, so we all could learn from it, and maybe even contribute to the evolution.

iOnRoad

A bit too shiny for my taste. The core of it works really smooth. The classifiers and filters are better tuned than with the competing apps I tested.

Jaguar drivers club excursion

It’s almost ten years ago, when I bought my vintage Jaguar XJS. And in two years time it will turn 30, thus gain official classic status. That means a huge drop in insurance and tax fees. It’s a grand tourer coupe with an incredibly smooth running V12 engine, sporting 294 horsepower. Because it shares the same comfort suspension with the XJ saloon, the regular version is not so great for racing.

I learned long ago, that there were some XJS used for racing. I saw reports of increasing the displacement from 5.3 to 10 lites or mounting a dual compressor, thus reaching 1’000 horsepower. But only when reading the latest issue of the JDCS Tribune, I learned that the XJS was in fact Jaguar’s most successful racing car. When you read about Jaguar racing cars, what you usually find, are the legendary XK120 to XK150, C-Type, D-Type, the Silk-cut cars, and maybe something about the XJ13. There are some cool old looking videos on youtube.

But the reason I write about all this is that I was, after years of absence, finally driving with the Jaguar driver’s club again. Levin, my older son, is the biggest fan of cars that I know, and he was looking forward to this day for a month. He was totally excited seeing all these beautiful cars. And during the drive he observed every car he could see, following them and trying to identify.