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Computer-Operated Car Takes Congressman for a Ride

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) yelled at his driver on the way to the airport on Sept. 6, but the driver didn't even bother to respond.

It was a computer.

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Shuster, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was testing a driverless car,  designed by Carnegie Mellon University researchers, on a 30-mile ride to Pittsburgh International Airport.

One of the researchers was positioned in the driver's seat - just in case. (Or maybe to make sure that people in other cars didn't freak out on seeing no one in the driver's seat.)

A video of the experiment shows the man in the driver's seat gesturing but not steering (though he did once use the steering wheel as a precaution). Cameras, laser sensors and radar help the car steer, check the speed of other traffic and detect pedestrians, road signs and the like.

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Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch also came along for the trip in the 2011 Cadillac SRX.

At the end of the ride, Shuster gave the invisible driver a round of applause and, on stepping out of the car, said, "Well, my nerves aren't wracked. It was excellent - it's amazing."

He confessed to yelling at the computer but said that it did its thing "without a hitch."

Shuster told the Associated Press that in addition to making driving safer and more efficient, the technology could also help put unmanned vehicles in combat roles.

Carnegie Mellon developed the car after winning a $2 million competition sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.



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