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The road is a strange, and oftentimes confusing place as thousands of novels, films and songs have told us. Imagine being an autonomous car trying to parse road markings in different states of decay, the myriad street sign designs and throw in other vehicles on top of it and things quickly become more than a little daunting.
What if instead of forcing autonomous cars to adapt to our crumbling, patchwork infrastructure, we could update that infrastructure with relatively low-cost solutions to make it much simpler for self-driving cars to see? 3M wants to just that with its Connected Roads project.
Roads - Program - Versions - Road - Technologies
3M's Connected Roads program uses tweaked versions of existing road marking technologies to help autonomous cars better navigate existing roads.
The idea of "smart roads" isn't especially new, and in the last couple of years, in particular, we've seen a stack of concepts for turning our highways, byways and city streets into something more than flat, stupid concrete. The problem with the bulk of these is that any municipality that chose to implement them would have to spend vast sums of money retrofitting roads with sensors and other gizmos.
Idea - Technology - Materials - Place - Cars
3M's idea takes technology and materials that aren't especially different from those already in place, which makes them more cost-effective, and uses them to speak to autonomous cars. One of the ways that's being proposed is by retooling lane markings to be machine-readable by not only changing patterns but also adding the ability to reflect outside the visible spectrum which would make lidar's job easier in inclement weather. 3M scientists are also developing these lane-marking materials to be more durable than what is currently available, leading to reduced costs in the future.
Another change would involve changing road signs to be more reflective, and more easily readable. This would benefit both human drivers and self-driving cars...
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