Humanoid Robot Musashi Takes the Wheel in Autonomous Car Experiment


Is the key to autonomous cars that avoid pedestrians and telephone poles a humanoid robot behind the wheel? Researchers at the University of Tokyo think so and have detailed their argument in a newly published technical paper.

One researcher, who consults for Toyota, helped develop and train a “musculoskeletal humanoid” named Musashi to drive a small electric car on a test track.

Musashi is equipped with two cameras functioning as human eyes, allowing it to “see” the road ahead and the car’s side mirror views. With its mechanical hands, it can turn the car key, pull the handbrake, and activate the turn signal. Its anti-slip “feet” can press the accelerator and brake pedals.

The researchers taught Musashi to use the car’s steering wheel by feeding it raw sensor data, enabling the robot to turn a corner at an intersection while obeying traffic light signals.

However, there are limitations.

Musashi cautiously lifted its “foot” off the brake pedal to turn the corner, instead of tapping the accelerator. This was due to technical constraints and caution, resulting in a two-minute turn.

In another experiment, Musashi did use the accelerator but struggled to maintain a consistent speed on varying road inclines.

Despite these challenges, the researchers plan to develop a next-generation robot and software. In a few decades, Musashi might be driving your Tokyo taxi.

Kyle Wiggers
Kyle Wiggers
Kyle Wiggers is a senior reporter with a special interest in AI. His writing has appeared in VentureBeat and Digital Trends, as well as a range of gadget blogs including Android Police, Android Authority, Droid-Life, and XDA-Developers. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner, a piano educator, and dabbles in piano himself.

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