A group of researchers from University of Nevada, Reno with its 2010 Volkswagen Passat Variant travelled from U.S.-Mexico border to Mexico City to collect data as well as preparing for an even longer road trip which is from Reno, Nevada to Mexico City.
The Volkswagen which named Autonomos was modified such that it was able to automatically control speed, direction and braking without human intervention as well as relying on GPS to follow preset routes safely.
Raul Rojas, a visiting professor of robotics and intelligent systems math at University of Nevada, Reno said in a press release that they covered 250 to 300 miles daily so it took a week to arrive to Mexico City. He also mentioned that some parts of the highway were scary, but they had no important safety incidents.
In order to record the data, the researchers had prepared special maps which is able to store up to terabytes of data therefore details such as number of lanes, highway markings, exits, intersections and traffic lights were able to be stored properly.
The route that the team travelled was along Mexico’s Highway 15 where about five percent of it was construction work and potholes. The bigger challenge came from the lack of lane markings along the highway due to repaving work over the summer.
The team consisted of Rojas as well as three other German colleagues. Everyone had the opportunity to become safety driver which task was to keep an eye on the road in the driver’s seat. One person needed to monitor the computer and navigation systems whereas the others’ duty was to follow in a support vehicle.
Prior to this road trip, Rojas has tested the same car in autonomous driving mode on a 306-kilometer round trip from Berlin to Leipzig in Germany. For the Mexico road trip, they had covered 2414-kilometer distance.