Meet The Romanian Teenager Who Just Slashed $70,000 Off The Price of Autonomous Cars

Every year the Intel Science and Engineering Awards features some extremely impressive young people, but this year’s winner—Romanian 19 year-old Ionut Budisteanu—may make an unusually big difference.

His contribution was to take one of the most expensive elements of existing autonomous vehicle technology, the high-resolution 3D radar that Google uses to help cars see objects in the road, and use artificial intelligence to get by with a cheaper radar. Using about $4,000 worth of equipment he got results that are about as good as Google’s $75,000 rigs. For his trouble he gets a $75,000 scholarship prize. Eesha Khare, an 18 year-old from California, also did something with some major potential commercial applications and “developed a tiny device that fits inside cell phone batteries, allowing them to fully charge within 20-30 seconds.” We’re told that “Eesha’s invention also has potential applications for car batteries.”

Needless to say, the dual technologies of car electrification and car automation are probably the leading candidates to transform everyday life in a really useful way so this is extremely encouraging news.