The Sound of Science

Fridays 9am – Sheffield Live! – 93.2FM

Show 72 first broadcast on 16th October 2009

DOWNLOAD FIXED: SORRY! There were some problems with the audio for progs 71 and 72 which are now fixed.


This weeks feature is about robot cars. Professor Sebastian Thrun’s  team won the DARPA Grand – a race of about 140 miles across the Mojave desert – with an autonomous Volkswagen Toureg car – no driver and no remote control. When we will have automated cars on our roads?

Robot cars sooner than you think


The Royal Academy of Engineering recently released a report on Autonomous Systems (which I contributed to) that discusses the impact of self driving cars and lorries for the future of our road system. What are the obstacles that are keeping us back? What are the legal restrictions?

This week I talk to one of the world’s leading exponent of robot car development, Professor Sebastian Thrun director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL). In 2005 Sebastian’s team famously won the DARPA Grand Challenge – a race of autonomous cars across 140 miles of the Mojave desert. Here is a video clip of his car, Stanley, winning the race. Sebastian is very modest about the win but it was a very significant achievement.

Sebastian tells me about how this could save many lives on the world’s highways and how the disable, the blind and even children will be able to take to the roads on their own in a robot car. In 2007, the DARPA Grand Challenge moved to an Urban environment and Sebastian’s team came second – beaten by their strongest rivals at Carnegie Mellon University were Sebastian used to work. It is always close between the two of them and as Sebastian has pointed out, the greatest victory goes to the achievement of robotics in general.

Sebastin Thrun

Sebastin Thrun

Next Week: Can drugs make you smarter?

I talk to Dr Anjan Chatterjee MD, a neuralogist at the University of Pennsylvania, who is one of the world’s leading experts in cognitive enhancement drugs about how they are being used to boost work at school and in business. They were originally designed for therapies for disorders from Attention Deficit Disorder to Altzheimer’s disease but are now being used widely (and illegally) for “cosmetic neurology” in the the US.


October 16, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. I’m still waiting for the Jetsen Flying Car we were supposed to get around the turn of the century!!

    Comment by Denise | October 19, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: