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Superman & Batman Will Be No Match for Autonomous Cars

By: Bridget Clerkin March 15, 2018
X-ray sensors could help future self-driving cars detect objects and vehicles hidden behind corners.

American culture has long had a love affair with comic books, but the superheroes of the future won’t be drawn, or even filmed—they’ll be built.

Self-driving cars are already hyper-intelligent, and sooner or later, they may be able to fly, but researchers are now working to complete the trifecta of powers by giving the vehicles x-ray vision.

Well—sort of.

A team of Stanford University scientists have developed technology that would allow the cars to “see” around corners, detecting objects otherwise hidden from sight.

The idea works by utilizing machinery similar to LiDAR—the laser-beam tech largely responsible for giving the vehicles a view of the world.

While LiDAR works by shooting beams of light across space, then calculating how long it takes the waves to bounce directly back in order to develop a 3D perception of what’s around, the new program is more focused on which laser pulses don’t make the round-trip.

To get an idea of what’s behind the wall, instead of tracking where the wall itself is located, the new program would track which beams of light bounce off the surface, then go on to hit any objects behind it—relying on second, third, or even fourth bounces to paint a picture of the hidden area.

The system has already been tested in real life, with the x-ray vision able to successfully detect items as detailed as an exit sign, thanks largely in part to the sign’s reflective surface.

Still, development is early, and several other kinks must be worked out, including how long it takes the computers to process this new information and how to detect hidden objects in motion, or on days when the weather is less than compliant.

One thing’s for sure: as soon as Batman finds out about the option, he’ll have to get it installed on the Batmobile.

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