Aussie tech to go where driverless cars fear to tread

1422_Mercedes Benz_S Class_driverless_car

AN ADELAIDE connected car specialist has won a $2 million South Australian government grant that will help it buy two self-driving cars it will train to drive in places other autonomous cars won't.

Cohda Wireless, the company that is also developing car-to-car off-road convoy software for British mud-plugging specialists Land Rover, said today it would fit the cars with its Connected Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) software applications.

The technology will allow them to do something the current crop of self-driving cars fall flat on – the ability to drive themselves even after they’ve lost where they are in the world.

“We haven’t decided yet what cars we’re going to buy,” Cohda Wireless spokesman Paul Campese told Wheels. “We hope to make that decision in the next couple of months.”

“We’re going to be trying to get the cars into those hard-to-get-to places for autonomous cars,”

According to Campese, to date self-driving systems have relied heavily on GPS technology to work out where they are, and where they need to go.

However, they need to operate in GPS shadows, such as urban canyons and multi-storey car parks, where the sky is not visible. This is where Cohda, with technology that can piggyback off the mobile phone network, believes it can help.

Once modified, the Cohda cars will be able to paint a 360-degree picture of what’s around the vehicle that they can then use to work out where they can, and can’t drive.

“We want to rely less on the things that are holding back autonomous vehicles, basically those based on cameras, radars and lidars – the ones that rely on line-of-sight,” he said.

This will become even more important once autonomous vehicles stop using steering wheels, meaning there would be no way for passengers to take back control if a vehicle could not work out where it needed to go, Campese said.

South Australia is pushing to become Australia’s autonomous car development hub. Last year it held Australia’s first self-driving car trial, and has already changed its road rules to allow limited testing of self-driving cars to take place.

Cohda Wireless is not alone in its ambition to have a self-driving car on Australian roads. Automotive electronics specialist Bosch Australia has a heavily modified Tesla Model S it is using to test self-driving capabilities in Victoria, while Mercedes-Benz is about to start trials of a highly autonomous E-Class in the state.

Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.