Last year, we reported that online educational tech company Udacity was working on a self-driving car concept. Now, the company is starting to make good on its promise to open source the complete design, announcing that they’ve released their self-driving car simulator via open source license. All users need is a working knowledge of the Unity engine to be able to create their own tracks to test out their autonomous car software.
Most testing of self-driving vehicle software is done in virtual environments for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it is much cheaper to run computer simulations than it is to build an entire prototype vehicle. Also, it would be very difficult for a company to be able to guarantee safety for such testing, even if they were able to find a jurisdiction that would allow them to put their prototype on the road.
Having a free simulator will help spur innovation in the field, hopefully putting self-driving cars on an even faster track toward widespread viability. Ninety-four percent of automobile crashes are caused by human error, so taking people out of the equation could reduce that death toll considerably. With nearly 30,000 fatalities caused by auto collisions in the United States alone, there is no better time than now to speed along the process.