Teenage Inventor Honored For Developing Affordable Self-Driving Car Technology

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

A Romanian teenager has been awarded first prize at the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for his work on an artificial intelligence system that could drastically reduce the cost of building a self-driving car.

Nineteen-year-old Ionut Budisteanu took home a $75,000 scholarship for his concept, which replaces the costly high-resolution 3D radar used in many types of self-driving vehicles (including those designed by Google) with AI, webcam imagery, and low resolution 3D technology, Travis Andrews of Dvice reported on Saturday.

Budisteanu looked at Google´s design and realized that the developer was not concerned about the costs of their self-driving car when designing the vehicle. The high-resolution 3D radar was the most expensive component, costing approximately $75,000, according to John Roach of NBC News. Budisteanu was able to replace their technology with something that should cost no more than $4,000 to build, Roach added.

“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,” Andrews explained. “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 teenager´s technology performed flawlessly in 47 out of 50 simulations he conducted, according to NBC News. In the three others, it failed to recognize some individuals between 65 to 100 feet away — a problem which he said could be corrected with a slightly higher-resolution 3D radar system. Even then, the cost of his self-driving car technology would be “a fraction of Google’s” and could help make it available to the public at large, Roach added.

Budisteanu has obtained funding from a Romanian firm and will start testing a prototype this summer.

Also at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, 18-year-old California native Eesha Khare was awarded the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of $50,000 for a miniature device which fits inside a cell phone battery and allows them to recharge completely in no more than 30 seconds. In a statement, Intel said that her invention could also be potentially applied to help recharge dead car batteries.

Louisiana native Henry Lin, 17, also received the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of $50,000. Lin simulated thousands of clusters of galaxies, providing astronomers and other scientists with “valuable new data, allowing them to better understand the mysteries of astrophysics: dark matter, dark energy and the balance of heating and cooling in the universe’s most massive objects,” the chip manufacturer and event sponsor added.

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