Taking the road less traveled is extremely difficult for self-driving cars. Autonomous vehicles rely on highly visible lane markings, as well as detailed 3D maps in order to navigate their environment safely. Which is why most of the major companies have eschewed testing on unmapped rural roads in favor of suburbs and cities.
Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed a new system that allows self-driving cars to drive on roads they’ve never been on before without 3D maps. Called MapLite, the system combines simple GPS data that you’d find on Google Maps with a series of sensors that observe the road conditions.