Embry-Riddle, FDOT developing autonomous vehicles

The sight of driverless cars along Florida interstates could happen sooner than you think, as top students at the College of Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University are already on the case.  "There's already autonomous vehicles driving on the roads," says Jefferson Romney, a student researcher at the university.

Dr. Eric Coyle is in charge of a project for the Florida Department of Transportation.   Using a 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid that is fitted with cutting-edge technology, Dr. Coyle says they hope to,"... look at targeted areas where autonomous vehicles can be of great benefit to the DOT and to the rest of society."

The first task is to take people our of vehicles that perform dangerous tasks on the roads.  "Inspection of roadways, inspection of lines, any service task that the Department of Transportation does on a regular basis," Romney adds.   "This takes the human out of the picture. So that if anything bad does happen... there's no human that gets hurt."

The Ford Escape is equipped with automotive radar on the front, a GPS system and a laser range finder on the top.  Using 64 lasers, it is capable of capturing more than a million data points per second and create a visual representation of what's around the vehicle in 3-D.

The SUV is still in the research phase and it has not actually hit the road to perform tasks, but it's coming soon, and so are other autonomous vehicles like lawn mowers and boats.