It may be GM cars that change into robots in the Transformers movies, but it's a modified Toyota Prius that's the real robotic car. Designed by computer engineer Anthony Levandowski, the "pribot" took its first real road test around the San Francisco Bay area last week.
In preparation for the drive, Levandowski drove the route days earlier scanning the roads to be used by the Pribot for its actual journey. Using GPS to guide its way through the winding streets of San Francisco and using special lasers to maintain proper distance between itself and other objects, it traveled, with cameras and police watching, from San Francisco's waterfront, across the Bay Bridge and ending at Treasure Island. Save for a scratch received when getting on the bridge, the Pribot made it to its destination without incident.
Weaving through the busy streets of the bay area was exactly what inspired Levandowski to build the Pribot in the first place. "The technology for being able to improve your convenience and safety while on the freeway is just around the corner," said Levandowski, "I want to be the one to provide that."
The Pribot's San Francisco journey will be featured on an upcoming episode of the Discovery Channel program "Prototype This!"