A recent partnership between the University of Southern California Viterbi’s Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies (CATT) and Audi’s Electronics Research Lab has provided USC with an Audi A8 fully equipped with a broad sensor suite that includes radar, lidar (for light detection and ranging), cameras, and WiFi. For the next two years, the Audi smart car will be USC’s testbed for acquiring data on everything from parking assist and adaptive driver assistance, to systems and personalized navigation.

The CATT team’s research could have enormous implications for managing traffic flow, driver comfort, and mitigating accidents. In addition, the CATT team’s research will collect data from all possible sources: life data, historical data, unpredictable events, even simulations that can do fast-forward events. So, when an unpredictable event happens, the smart car’s simulator will imagine a virtual traffic network, based on real time and historical data to forecast the future.

Challenges for the team are integrating Audi’s existing software tools into the navigation, getting different software and databases to talk to one another, receiving the most accurate traffic data and, understanding the various ways of estimating driver and vehicle behavior.

Personalized driving is a big driver of the research. For all the smart car’s future intelligence, it will remain more of a 300-horsepower personal assistant that caters to the personalities of multiple drivers. The car would learn the operator’s driving style — acceleration profile, lane usage, and level of intervention — and tune its assistance systems to that style.

In addition, the CATT team’s research will go beyond the limited traffic data of an iPhone app to collect data from all possible sources: life data, historical data, unpredictable events, even simulations that can do fast forward events. So, for example, when an unpredictable event does happen, the smart car’s simulator will imagine a virtual traffic network, based on real time and historical data, to forecast the future.

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