At MOSI, take a ride into the future

Look, Ma! No hands! MOSI’s new driverless vehicle, an autonomous shuttle, takes museum visitors on a pre-programmed ride into the museum. The electronic vehicle, similar to the Google Car, uses multiple sensors to navigate the museum lobby, hallways and even the occasional visitor who happens to be in a marked crosswalk. A rapidly evolving technology, museum staff are always along for the ride. Mitch Traphagen photos.

Look, Ma! No hands! MOSI’s new driverless vehicle, an autonomous shuttle, takes museum visitors on a pre-programmed ride into the museum. The electronic vehicle, similar to the Google Car, uses multiple sensors to navigate the museum lobby, hallways and even the occasional visitor who happens to be in a marked crosswalk. A rapidly evolving technology, museum staff are always along for the ride. Mitch Traphagen photos.

The Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) in Tampa offers Bay area residents and visitors the opportunity to experience autonomous vehicle technology, in addition to drones and robots, this summer in a hands-on, interactive way. Beginning June 13, guests have been able to ride in a driverless vehicle, and to code robots at MOSI.

As guests enter the MOSI lobby, they are greeted by a Meridian Shuttle, an intelligent vehicle that is a  100 percent driverless, electric shuttle. This experience is a nationwide first; autonomous technology has not been available for the public to experience until now.

While many institutions have provided autonomous technology demonstrations in isolated areas, no one in the U.S. has a working system that interacts with the organization and its guests. MOSI is the first in the nation with a working autonomous vehicle system in which guests are able to ride.

“This is world-changing technology, and it makes sense for it to debut at MOSI, our community’s resource for science and technology,” said Molly Demeulenaere, president and CEO of MOSI. “By making these new and developing technologies accessible to everyone, MOSI gives its visitors a sneak peek into their not-so-distant future and inspires our next generation of scientists, engineers and inventors to see that anything is possible.”

The overall experience touches on some of the controversies that are tied to many of these new technologies. Are self-driving cars able to be hacked?

2-mosi_autonomous_vehicle“There is often a fear surrounding new technologies like autonomous vehicles and drones,” said Demeulenaere. “MOSI empowers people to embrace their curiosity regarding these new technologies in a safe and protective environment. These are important conversations happening within the family unit here at MOSI that may not happen in more formal settings.”

While MOSI’s driverless vehicle and robot experience opened to the public June 13,   the Drone Zone will open at 10 a.m. Monday, July 6, and is a part of MOSI’s newest exhibit, Innovate, a unique experience showcasing the latest discoveries that improve the way we live, work and play right now and in the future. This experience will be included with the price of admission and free for MOSI members. MOSI admission, which includes the autonomous vehicle, drone and robot experience, 3D Printing the Future, more than 450 hands-on exhibits and one  film in the Florida Hospital IMAX® DOME Theatre, is $22.95 for adults, $20.95 for seniors (60+), $18.95 for children (3-12) and children 2 and under are free.

The technology for driverless vehicles, as demonstrated by the autonomous shuttle at MOSI, already exists. However, the safety measures and redundancy required for large-scale public adoption, as well as the testing required, remain several years off. It is estimated that by 2030, autonomous vehicles will be commonplace on American roads. The benefits of the shift to this technology could be enormous, with computer-operated vehicles allowing far greater traffic volume on existing roadways due to sensors that are technically superior to human senses, and a resultant fewer accidents and fatalities.

Computers, particularly systems with multiple redundancies, do not get distracted by phone calls, text messages, magazine articles, shaving or the application of makeup while traveling down the highway. This gives the ability to safely increase traffic volume, until millions or billions of dollars could be saved with a reduced need to continually expand freeways and major roads in the nation’s largest cities.

At MOSI, the autonomous shuttle allows visitors a sneak preview into what is almost certainly to come.

Innovate is sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council of Arts and Culture and the State of Florida.

For more information about these and the other worldclass exhibits offered by MOSI, visit www.mosi.org.

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