As much as we know they now exist, as much legislation that has actually been penned over them, self-driving cars still feel like science fiction. They at least feel like something that must have been invented by ancient scientific minds, those heavy with the weight of experience and failure. So it becomes even more mind-boggling to realize that, on Friday, a 19-old-year high-schooler was given an award for developing an artificial intelligence that will dramatically lower the cost of self-driving cars.
Ionut Budisteanu, the Romanian teenager who’s $75,000 richer thanks to the award, wanted to find a way to get rid of Google’s high resolution 3-D radar. He said Google didn’t worry about cost while developing the technology, and the high-res 3-D radar was the most expensive part. Without it, the cars would be far cheaper.
So that’s what he did.
By using low resolution 3-D imaging to recognize the larger objects like cars and houses and using webcam imagery with artificial intelligence to recognize the smaller objects like curbs, lane markers and soccer balls, he found a way around the expensive component.
All of this information is processed by a suite of computers that then offer the processed info to a supervisor computer program which calculates the car’s path and drives it.
The price difference is enormous. The radar used by Google costs $75,000. His costs $4,000.
For his work, he received the Gordon E. Moore Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix.