The Curiosity rover at “Glen Etive”, a Mars sampling site. Curiosity has never passed a defensive driving course. NASA
Who is the robot that works the most on Mars? It would be the Curiosity rover, an advanced robot that takes photos of the Martian surface, collects important data and regularly finds itself stuck in piles of sand. NASA is fed up with Curiosity’s recklessness and hopes you can help teach him some safe driving skills.
I know what you think. Curiosity is similar to a robotic car, so why not just pass Tesla software and skip the driving lessons? It is not that simple. Curiosity has yet to find any roads or bridges on Mars. There also do not appear to be any trees, lakes or traffic signs on the planet. Smart cars like Tesla navigate using environmental cues, and Mars is frankly lacking in the environment department.
It’s a bit of a pickle – curiosity has to navigate between red rocks, red dirt, red sand, red dust and the little green man. It’s a daunting task for anyone, especially a billion dollar version of Roomba.
Okay, I’m going to get straight to the point. NASA is not willing to pay you for driving lessons, but you know, it’s just a small favor. You don’t even have to leave your computer. You just opened the AI4Mars crowdsourcing tool, view high-resolution photos of the planet’s surface and trace traces of rock, sand and dirt. Finally, this data will feed an AI that will help the Curiosity rover to “see” its environment and navigate safely.
NASA hopes navigation technology will affect its next March 2020 rover, the Perseverance. Manual programming of navigation controls for these rovers can take days, so NASA has a lot to gain from intelligent AI behind the wheel. And one day, when we send people to Mars, the smart Curiosity and Perseverance rovers will look up and say, “Thank you for teaching me to drive.”