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Cheap Autonomous Driving System with Artificial Intelligence Developed by Romanian High School Student

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ionut-budisteanuEither Google or Tesla Motors should hire this guy – he made a system that can autonomously drive a car and that costs just a fraction of Google’s current LIDAR-based self-driving mechanism. Ionut Budisteanu, the Romanian inventor, is to some just a high school student – to others, he may be the key to revolutionary technologies.

Budisteanu has won a $75,000 prize from the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest high school science research competition, and has already signed a contract with a Romanian company that should result in a prototype getting built this year.

The autonomous driving system designed by Ionut is using cameras mounted on the car and a cheap, low-resolution radar that detects large objects and the distances to them. In 47 out of 50 simulations, Budisteanu’s artificial intelligence software was able to accurately detect humans 65 to 100 feet away – three of the simulations failed, though. However, the young scientist (19) said that results would be dramatically improved if he used a radar that’s just a tad more advanced (higher resolution) than the first.

As we’ve been reporting two weeks ago, Tesla’s Elon Musk is supposedly talking to Google about a future collaboration on autonomous vehicle systems (he likes to call them “autopilot”), but is not satisfied by current technology, which he says is too expensive and complicated. In Musk’s vision, a bunch of cameras should do, just like humans are able to control the car and estimate distances, speeds and objects with just two eyes.

Ionut Budisteanu’s system uses artificial intelligence (AI) – a piece of software that mimics human understanding and learns from past experience. While I’m also sure Google’s approach contains pieces of AI, the millions they poured into development and contests from all kinds of universities haven’t been able to come out with a cheap solution – a final year high school student from a developing country could. Now that’s brilliant.

Update: I actually sent Elon Musk an e-mail asking him to take a look at this piece of news. He replied “I think this is generally the right approach.” Which means Ionut Budisteanu may expect a call from someone at Tesla, before he even attends university.

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