When self-driving tech was in its infancy, a road trip by 2 CMU researchers paved the way

At the end of July 1995, a pair of Carnegie Mellon University researchers embarked on a nearly 3,000-mile road trip across the country — from Pittsburgh to San Diego — in an unsuspecting black minivan.

Neither was driving.

The van, a 1990 Pontiac Trans Sport dubbed “Navlab 5,” was loaded up with the latest self-driving technology developed at CMU. Its pilot was called the Rapidly Adapting Lateral Position Handler, or, RALPH for short, and it had the wheel as Dean Pomerleau and Todd Jochem kept a careful eye.

Their journey was called the “No Hands Across America” tour, a play on the 1986 “Hands Across America” fundraiser, and it was the longest trip ever made by a self-driving vehicle at the time — 2,849 miles over seven days from July 23 to 30 in 1995.

Thursday was the 25th anniversary of Navlab 5’s arrival in San Diego…

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the University of Pittsburgh would receive a $1 million grant to study the accessibility and implications of autonomous vehicles for people with disabilities.