Satellite navigation systems are designed to guide a vehicle driver to their destination via the shortest possible route. It’s a principle that will almost certainly be adopted for autonomous cars of the future.
But what if you wanted to take the scenic route? If the autonomous car you find yourself in doesn’t know the meaning of scenic, which it won’t because they don’t understand “meaning”, you’re unlikely to leave the not-so-picturesque highways and byways of the urban jungle. And today’s sat-navs won’t have a clue what you’re talking about either.
Now, fret no more because a group of developers in Germany have utilised neural networks and Google Street View to create an app that can guide you or your autonomous vehicle to your destination via the most visually interesting routes available.
The software is called Autobahn, unsurprisingly, and is the work of Nina Runge, Pavel Samsonov, Donald Degraen and Johannes Schöning.
In a paper, the team explain that their system uses deep learning techniques to use images of areas to generate the most scenic routes available in a given area. And they say it’s ideal for those who enjoy a leisurely drive in their current human-driven car, or the driverless car of the future.
“We show that this vision-based approach can complement other approaches for scenic route planning and introduce a personalized scenic route by aligning the characteristics of the route to the preferences of the user,” the write in their paper, entitled No More Autobahn.
They add: “The rapid development of autonomous vehicles will also radically change the way we perceive the in-car experience.
“Navigation will no longer be only a tool to navigate from point A to point B on the shortest or fastest path, but the selection of a route will have an impact on the in-car experience as well.
“This is already true for travellers and owners of convertibles or motorbikes as the driving itself has an intrinsic motivation for them.”
The areas of the world which are most likely to become the first to adopt autonomous vehicle technology are most likely to be tourist destinations.
The ill-fated all-electric road vehicle Sinclair C5 enjoyed many years’ gainful employment in holiday hotspots in the UK years after it ended production.
He may have been an engineering visionary, but Sir Clive Sinclair’s designers probably made a bad choice in giving the vehicle the appearance of a children’s go-cart instead of an example of state-of-the-art technology. Even the new design, the Sinclair X-1, doesn’t look not much better. Tesla-killer it ain’t.
Be that as it may, autonomous cars of the future are likely to be widely adopted, probably starting with holiday hotspots around the world, especially remote ones where there is less traffic.
It’s possible, then, that Autobahn or similar applications will be ideal for driverless cars who find themselves being asked by their human passengers to take the scenic route. Sat-navs are likely to get their first though.