To accomplish this, the researchers have added some "optional" equipment to the vehicle, called the Navlab 5 . It has been outfitted with a portable computer, a windshield mounted camera, a GPS receiver, as well as some other supplementary equipment. Although capable enough to drive the vehicle, the equipment is fairly compact - about the size of two large shoe boxes. All of the equipment is powered from the cigarette lighter, just like a radar detector.
To drive the vehicle, the computer takes a picture of the scene ahead. Using this picture, it finds the position and orientation of the road. Once it has this information, it is able to produce steering commands which will keep the vehicle in its lane.
The trip, dubbed "No Hands Across America," actually began two months ago when the system drove from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. On this trip, the Navlab 5 was able to drive itself 96% of the way (290/302 miles.) If this percentage holds for the Pittsburgh to San Diego portion of the journey, the vehicle will log over 3000 self-driving miles.
This trip, primarily sponsored by Delco Electronics, AssistWare Technology and Carnegie Mellon University, with additional support from Andrew Corporation and RDI Computer Corporation is the culmination of over a decade of research , funded by the United States Department of Defense and the United States Department of Transportation , into the idea of self driving cars. The goal is to use technology, similar to that used in Navlab 5, to create a safer and more efficient national highway system.