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Driverless Nissan Leaf: Oxford University Wants To Reduce System's Cost

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It's early days for both electric vehicles and autonomous cars, but the technology for the two seems to go hand-in-hand.

After all, what better way to be whizzed home after a hard day at work than in a smooth, quiet, green, and entirely autonomous electric car? It'd be like living in the future, without the silver lycra bodysuits.

A team at Oxford University in the UK is already heading down that route--the self-driving electric car, not the lycra bodysuits. The University is developing its own autonomous technology on a Nissan Leaf.

And while, like Google's driverless car and several others, you can still control the car manually, the touch of a button on a dash-mounted iPad is enough to set the car off on its own.

It's not the technology alone that Oxford wants to develop either, reports Autoblog Green.

The team also intends to bring down the cost, making it more accessible to the sort of people who'd feasibly buy an autonomous vehicle.

The current prototype system costs just over $7,600, but project co-leader Professor Paul Newman wants to bring that down to nearer $150--the cost of a fairly basic option on most cars these days.

Oxford's Leaf relies on fairly simple technology in order to control it. No GPS positioning is used. Instead, lasers and cameras scan the surrounding environment and negotiate its way along streets and around obstacles.

Where Oxford's system differs from existing autonomous technology is that it's only designed to work some of the time, and the car could still be driven yourself whenever you want.

At any time, the driver can touch the iPad screen to take control of the car themselves. Alternatively, a tap of the brake pedal can return control to your own hands--rather like doing so in a car with cruise control disables the system.

"Instead of imagining some cars driving themselves all of the time we should imagine a time when all cars can drive themselves some of the time.

"The sort of very low cost, low footprint autonomy we are developing is what’s needed for everyday use," explained Professor Newman.

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