MIT rsearchers developing robotic driving companion

Need help staying awake or finding the cheapest gas? In-car robot is designed to help

Ever wish you had someone to accompany you on a long drive -- a companion that knows you well, can help you avoid traffic jams, maybe even help find the cheapest gas along the route home from work?

If so, a research team at MIT may be developing something for you.

The university today announced that MIT scientists are working to develop a robot dubbed the Affective Intelligent Driving Agent (AIDA) that's designed to sit in motor vehicles. According to MIT, the team hopes the robot can help change the way people interact with their vehicle.

"With the ubiquity of sensors and mobile computers, information about our surroundings is ever abundant," said Professor Carlo Ratti, director of MIT's SENSEable City Lab, in a statement. "AIDA embodies a new effort to make sense of these great amounts of data, harnessing our personal electronic devices as tools for behavioral support. In developing AIDA, we asked ourselves how we could design a system that would offer the same kind of guidance as an informed and friendly companion."

The AIDA team, along with partners Audi and the Volkswagen Group of America's Electronics Research Lab, is designing the robot to be embedded in the vehicle's dashboard, pulling in real-time information from the Internet about traffic, and about businesses and gas stations along the driver's route. The robot is programmed to remember the driver's usual routes to and from work and other regular destinations like the local grocery story. AIDA also will monitor the driver's facial expressions for signs of fatigue or agitation, MIT said.

The robot is designed to communicate with drivers through visual cues like winks or smiles, as well as verbally offering up information on alternate routes or vehicle fuel levels.

"When it merges knowledge about the city with an understanding of the driver's priorities and needs, AIDA can make important inferences," said Assaf Biderman, associate director of the SENSEable City Lab, in a statement. "Within a week, AIDA will have figured out your home and work location. AIDA can also give you feedback on your driving, helping you achieve more energy efficiency and safer behavior."

MIT didn't say when it expects to complete the project.

A lot of auto companies and universities have been looking into various ways to meld vehicles and robots.

In the fall of 2007, Nissan showed off its Robot Agent at the Tokyo Motor Show. The Robot Agent, designed to sit in the dashboard of the company's Pivo 2 concept car, uses built-in cameras to read the driver's facial queues for signs of fatigue or stress. The robot, speaking in English or Japanese, is designed to nod, shake its head and even blink while it talks the driver out of a bad mood. If that doesn't work, Robot Agent is programmed to suggest that the driver pull over and take a break.

A year ago, a Stanford University researcher toldComputerworld that for the struggling U.S. auto industry to survive over the long term, Detroit must take back its technology leadership role and start developing self-driving cars.

Sebastian Thrun, a professor of computer science and director of the artificial intelligence laboratory at Stanford, said technology is revolutionizing what automobiles can do. He added that the U.S. lags behind Europe, Japan and South Korea when it comes to finding ways to use robotics to make cars safer, more energy-efficient and easier to use.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags MITroboticsartificial intelligence

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments



Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?