Autonomous Vehicles

So, I’ve been thinking rather small lately.  Especially with that autonomous mixer idea, I mean pathetic, am I right :p.  I really want to go back to the reason I wanted to get into AI and multiagent systems which is making autonomous vehicles!  So, I’m sure everyone knows that car manufacturers and even Google and Baidu are attempting to make cars specifically that are autonomous.  This is great!  I’m arguing that before full consumer acceptance of this happens and to make it affordable and economical we need to make it possible for consumers to modify their existing car to make it autonomous!  This seemed to be the direction that the DARPA grand challenge was heading in.  So, I found that some graduate from MIT also had this idea a year or so ago and have already made a company with a product (their website, wired article, machine learning job at their company).  Obviously I’m excited about their product because of its simplicity and the fact that they are doing this now!  Seems like its is meant currently for highways though.  So, it still needs a lot of work.

Car insurance data

Did you know that auto insurance companies allow you to look up a quote online.  All you need is your name, address and date of birth and they will show you your cars!  That means you can with a little effort find out what cars people have!  Year and Model at least.  That could be valuable info for sales or targeted advertisements.  The crazy thing is that the website does not require you to agree that you are who you filled in the box says you are!  So, technically I don’t think you would be doing anything illegal.  Crazy.

fun autonomous vehicle ideas

Would be cool in the future with autonomous cars we will be able to have events where instead of having stations in a building that you walk to you would be in cars.  And whenever you switched you would change cars.


Bathroom car!  Would be too cool to have an autonomous bus/car that just drove around the city and people could request it and you would be able to go to the bathroom in it.  It could connect to the back of your car and you could walk into it.  Sensors would be able to monitor when you needed to go to the bathroom so that those vehicles could be positioned appropriately.


Accident Notification System

So, a friend of mine was just in a really bad car collision (not with another car thankfully).  He was taken to a hospital and was unconscious and had fractured his skull.  It took about 6 hours until his family was notified!  It was on the website of our local newspaper like within the hour of the crash.  I googled it and it seems like others have experienced the same thing where the emergency contacts aren’t called for hours after the collision.

So, my idea is that we could connect a raspberry pi to a bluetooth OBD-II adapter.  Then when the OBD signals that the airbag is deployed the raspberry pi would notify a smartphone to call 911 and any emergency contacts.  However, I did a little googling and found that getting whether the airbag has been deployed would be different for each manufacturer and is proprietary so there is no easy way to get it!  I guess that is why OnStar has got basically a monopoly on providing services like this.

So, I was also thinking that airbags would probably not be the only system affected when in a crash that would cause the airbags to deploy.  Would be interesting to collect data from the OBD to find out what other things are indicators…

So, this idea seems worthy of a kickstarter for Procyon :).  Also, I’ve seen most of the better kickstarters have cool youtube videos.  The guy who was in the accident has a degree in film and has made commercials so maybe we could get him involved.  Would be fun to get into autonomous vehicles eventually.  This might be a good start.

However, back in 2010 someone tried doing this sort of thing only based on the smart phone’s ability to measure Gs by the accelerometer.  Pretty cool.  However, it seems like they had troubles with false positives.  But, since then, they haven’t done anything to continue the work.  They did have a neat idea where they would also broadcast location of wreck to a map service so that people could route around it.

EDIT: Well I found someone that offers this as a service  They make you purchase the dongle and then they offer their software as a service that you subscribe to.  They don’t seem to have a big market.  I think that if we could sell it to taxi/limo companies.  Then passengers could provide emergency contact info.  And if the user has the app they would be able to just get into any car and it would be able to interface with the bluetooth device automatically.

EDIT 2: Well I no longer think we should even work on this.  It has been done and done well by  It is just about how I would have done it too.  They have a built in accelerometer in the dongle that attaches to the OBD port, so they don’t have to figure out how to know if the air bag has been deployed.  Also, they have really good support so that it isn’t just your phone automatically calling they have a nice protocol set up.  I emailed them and told them about Procyon and an idea I had while I was looking at their site that I think we could provide and a broken link I found on their site.  Cool if they respond.

Ethics of Self-driving cars

Well I just read something pretty disturbing that GM for 10 years basically hid the fact that the ignition system was faulty and can cause the car to stall, leaving the passengers with no airbags. (–finance.html)

Ethically how are selfdriving/autonomous cars and the software in them going to do better?  It is already known that bugs are essentially inherent to software.  Will we rely on transparency of software? Who will be responsible?  There will probably be many people working on the bad piece of code.  These are questions that I think I should take the time to answer.

Gas Engines!

They are pretty cool.  This post was driven (pun intended) by the need for determining whether a 2003 BMW 325i can be safely driven with regular gas rather than higher octane gas.

The compression ratio of the bmw is 9:1.  This ratio tells us the volume of the combustion chamber at its largest capacity to its smallest capacity.  Essentially, the larger the ratio the more heat we use to actually do work the better.  However, this requires higher octane gas in order for knocking (the gas detonating) not to occur.  Basically higher octane gas has a higher activation level (meaning it can stand a much higher temp/pressure before it combusts).  So, when a lower octane gas is put into a higher compression ratio engine the fuel will self detonate (knock) before the piston compresses the whole way possibly causing damage to the piston.  When a knock sensor detects knocking it adjusts when it ignites the fuel so that knocking won’t occur.  However, fuel will be wasted.

Knock sensors are required on vehicles after 1996.  So, it seems like it is ok to put lower octane gas into the bmw.  Maybe keep an eye on the mpg and compare it to what the manual says it should be getting.


My mom taught all this to me when I was homeschooled!  Wish I had a better memory.