A Mexican-born scientist who began working in 2006 on a driverless car has completed another step in the testing stage, a trip from Nogales, Sonora, to Mexico City with no one at the wheel.
Raúl Rojas’ 2010 Volkswagen Passat, named Autonomos, completed the 2,400-kilometer trip without a hitch, despite the challenges posed by construction zones, potholes and the ubiquitous tope, or speed bump.
Three colleagues accompanied Rojas on the trip, which took about a week. He described some parts of the journey as scary but there were no important safety incidents, he told Nevada Today.
One issue proved to be the absence of lane markings on long stretches of Federal Highway 15 where repaving had been carried out after rain damage.
Rojas and his team took turns with the duties that overseeing a driverless car entailed: one to watch the road and one to watch over the computer and navigation systems. Two followed in a support vehicle.
Autonomos operates with seven laser scanners, nine video cameras, seven radars, a very precise GPS unit and a multi-terabyte database containing descriptions of the highways. Those systems succeeded in guiding the car through the Sonora desert, down the west coast, up to Guadalajara and to Mexico City.
It was the longest roadtrip by far for one of Rojas’ vehicles. His previous record was a 300-kilometer round trip between Berlin and Leipzig in 2012.
A professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the Free University of Berlin, Rojas is currently working at the University of Nevada, focusing on intelligent systems, robotics and self-driving cars. He is a graduate of the National Polytechnic Institute.