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Self-driving cars for country roads

Navigating roads less traveled in self-driving cars is a difficult task. One reason is that there aren't many places where self-driving cars can actually drive. Companies like Google only test their fleets in major cities where they've spent countless hours meticulously labeling the exact 3-D positions of lanes, curbs, off-ramps and stop signs. If you live along the millions of miles of U.S. roads that are unpaved, unlit or unreliably marked, you're out of luck. Such streets are often much more complicated to map and get a lot less traffic, so companies aren't incentivized to develop 3-D maps for them anytime soon. From California's Mojave Desert to Vermont's White Mountains, there are huge swaths of America that self-driving cars simply aren't ready for. One way around this is to create systems advanced enough to navigate without these maps. In an important first step, National Science Foundation funded researchers have developed MapLite, a framework that allows self-driving cars to drive on roads they've never been on before without 3-D maps. MapLite combines simple GPS data that you'd find on Google Maps with a series of sensors that observe the road conditions. In tandem, these two elements allowed the team to autonomously drive on multiple unpaved country roads in Devens, Massachusetts, and reliably detect the road more than 100 feet in advance.

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