iPad-controlled self-driving car in development at Oxford University

“One has to wonder if the Google guys kept a stiff upper lip when they learned that the U.K.’s Oxford University is working on developing a self-driving car controlled by Apple’s iPad,” BA McKenna reports for The Motley Fool. “The project is called ‘Auto Drive’ and involves a modified Nissan Leaf electric vehicle.”

“Many are aware that Google is considered the leader in the fully autonomous vehicle race, as its project’s progress is well publicized,” McKenna reports. “It’s lesser known that some other tech companies and most of the major auto companies are also involved in developing semi-automatic or automatic driverless systems. Volkswagen is especially well along in its efforts. Over the years, it has collaborated with Stanford University teams on several projects… Several automakers – such as BMW, Volvo, and Nissan — have said their driverless vehicles will be available by 2020. Many believe driverless vehicles will be commonplace within 15-20 years.”

McKenna reports, “Oxford’s iPad-controlled Nissan Leaf ‘Auto Drive’ project is led by Professor Paul Newman of Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science, and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Its initial goal is to achieve an economical middle-ground between today’s human-controlled cars and fully autonomous vehicles. The team has been working on the technology for two years, and received and retrofitted the Leaf last September.”

“Apple’s iPad, which is fitted into the dashboard, is the human-car interface. In addition to the iPad, the system is comprised of cameras, lasers, and discreet sensors built into the vehicle, and an additional computer in the trunk,” McKenna reports. “When the system recognizes an area, the iPad signals to the driver that the ‘auto drive’ option is available. Touching the screen activates the auto drive. Switching back to manual control is done via a tap on the brake.”

Much more in the full article here.


  1. As much as I like to see Apple products used in everything this headline is misleading.

    The iPad doesn’t control the car but is the interface between the human in the car and a computer in the boot.

    1. Yes, true the iPad is the interface with the driver. However, the computer in the boot can be a Mac mini / server one day. By 2020, no one will be using and Microsoft Windows computers and Apple’s Mac with OS X or some kind of iOS could be as small as the Apple TV is today and could be mounted behind the iPad in the dashboard or be all one device. “Think Different” this is Apple and the did not buy PA Semi and that bio-identification company for nothing.

      1. If anyone is dumb enough to use a general purpose OS (be it windows or OS X) to control the critical functions of a driver-less car they deserve to be shot.

        There are established and solid real time operating systems built specifically for tasks like this.

        Windows, OS-X or a consumer grade Linux are not going to cut it.

        1. EXACTLY!

          Poorly written article too. The description “a self-driving car controlled by Apple’s iPad” is an oxymoron. If it is self-driving, it needs no human controls.

  2. Officer: Do you know how fast you were going?
    Siri: I’m sorry, officer, I’m afraid I can’t answer that right now.

    Officer: Step out of the car, please.
    Siri: I’m really sorry about this, but I can’t take any requests right now. Please try again in a little while.

  3. Glad they are using an Apple product for this.
    A law needs passing NOW to prevent anyone at Microsoft from even thinking that this is something they should get involved in – imagine the multiple pile-up when the next BSOD occurs…

    MS would have to at least replace the BSOD with a suitable warning message such as “BRACE YOURSELF!!” or maybe just play whale song to sooth the occupants while their by now unguided missile embeds itself into the nearest brick wall.

    Seriously, the day that Microsoft gets to design anything like auto guidance systems is the day that I swap my car for an armoured truck.

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