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Google, Tesla or Apple have all built or are building their own self-driving cars. As an expert in a related area, I am interested in knowing at a high level, the systems and techniques that go into self-driving cars.

How easy is it for me to make a tabletop prototype (large enough to accommodate the needed computing power needs)?

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You're going to need some way to 'see' the area around the car, and to track the speed of nearby objects. Google uses a combination of LIDAR, radar, conventional cameras, and occasionally sonar (see here for a high-level overview). This technology is quite expensive, and can easily cost thousands of US dollars.

However, a bigger obstacle than the expense of the hardware (which would be smaller for a table-top prototype) is the software complexity. Like many major projects, the software for self-driving cars is the result of years of work from AI research teams, and thus extremely difficult to duplicate on your own.

That said, you're not trying to make a state-of-the-art self-driving car. Assuming you're an expert in image processing and robotics, you can probably create a basic prototype, (like something that drive in a limited table-top environment). However, it's still going to take a lot of time and money.

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  • $\begingroup$ The radar is used to detect and track objects under bright ambient lighting, or what is it used for? Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Crashalot
    Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ Is this radar the same type of radar that is used for detecting the locations of planes and boats? $\endgroup$
    – Stephen
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ This answer really needs some references to improve its reliability. Right now, you're saying that self-driving cars use AI techniques, but you don't really say 1. for what and 2. which specific techniques. It would be nice to have some examples. $\endgroup$
    – nbro
    Commented Nov 23, 2020 at 0:38

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