The Next Fifty Years - 3


Longevity Index

    A Google search for "autonomous vehicles has unearthed more than 5,000 entries. This field is evidently in a state of ferment. Here are 12 of the 5,390 responses for "autonomous vehicles".
    Steve, one of these articles proposes corner reflectors for stationary roadside signs, etc., and radar-reflecting license plates for measuring speeds and distances to the car in front of you.
    The California program (below) explains a little about the recent history and current direction of the national automated highway program.

Vehicle Platoon

Cooperative Vehicle-Highway Automation Systems

State of California

    "In 1994, nine public and private organizations, including Caltrans and Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways (PATH) joined with USDOT to fork the National Automated Highway System Consortium (NAHSC). The NAHSC mission was to develop a prototype automated highway system for the United States and to demonstrate AHS technology by 1997. DEMO 97 in San Diego, California, in August, 1997, was a major public success and one of the best demonstrations of transportation technology in U. S. history. However, despite that success and completion of significant AHS research, the USDOT ended its participation in the NAHSC in early 1998. Without a primary source of funding, the NAHSC ceased its activities in June 1998.
    "The USDOT has now redirected the focus of its Advanced Vehicle Control and Safety System (AVSCC) research into a program called the Intelligent Vehicle Initiative (IVI). The primary goal of the IVI Program is to improve the safety of vehicle travel through the development of autonomous intelligent vehicles. While this goal is noble and shoud be pursued, it does not consider the long-term societal need for traffic congestion reelief.
    "In addition tot he work performed under the IVI program, all the major motor vehiclemanufacturers and their suppliers are currently developing a variety of AVCSS products. Almost all of these products are autonomous in nature, meaning that they do not depend on any specific interaction and cooperation with other vehicles or with the highway infrastructure. This cooperation will enable the developers to create effective products that would still be economically feasible for installing on vehicles.
    "Prior research also indicates that significant congestion relief can be achieved by adding the concept of cooperation between vehicles and the highway infrastructure to eh autonomous intelligent vehicles produced by the IVI Program. Recognizing that vehicle systems developed under the IVI Program will likely be deployed sooner than the CVHAS Program developed under this proposal, it will be essential that CVHAS Program be complementary in nature to the IVI Program, rather than competitive.
    "Despite the cancellation of the NAHSC program, there is still substantial national and international interest in CVHAS. In 1998, Caltrans and PATH created an initiative called The Phoenis Project whose mission is to continue CVHas research, development, and deployment with public, private and academic partners in the U. S. and abroad. Among Phoenix's goals are to:

  1. establish a national-international public-private organization capable of pursuing CVHAS from research and development through full deployment,
  2. establish linkages among funding partners, research organizations, transportation system owners and operators, and vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, and
  3. mainstream CVHAS by raising awareness of its capabilities in the transporation planning process and by incorporating precursor technologies into the infrastructure.

    "While the IVI Program will address near-term vehicle safety needs, cooperative vehicle-highway automation systems will address the nation's long-term vehicle surface transportation needs. As the technologies developed under this program mature, they will help ease traffic congestion, in addition to increasing traveler safety, comfort, and convenience. Achieving that vision will require the development of "building-block" or precursor systems that will also have application in the current transportation system. There will be "spin-off" technologies developed from this research, such as

  1. lane and roadway departure warning/assistance,
  2. merge and lane-change driver assistance, and
  3. safer braking systems fro heavy vehicles.

    The members list for this activity includes Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Washington, a DOT representative, and Honda.

Ohio State's Autonomous Vehicle Program
    The NAHSC 1997 Technical Feasibility Demonstration was held on an approximately 7.6 mile section of interstate I-15 just north of San Diego, California during August 7-10, 1997. The road available to the demonstration consisted of a two lane corridor, isolated from the rest of the freeway by concrete barriers and remote-controlled gates on all entrance and exit ramps, designed as reversible high occupancy vehicle lanes. These lanes were open to traffic during normal weekday rush hour periods. It was thus necessary to ensure that demonstration related activities did not disturb the roadway for the public. The figure below shows the demonstration road. The road represents realistic highway driving, with substantial hills and valleys and noticeable road curvatures. Lane markers were painted on the shoulder side of each lane and reflectors divided the two lanes of the road. Radar reflective stripe was installed in both lanes in approximately the middle third of the demonstration road.

     The second automated car (below) decides to pass the slower manual car, and automatically performs a left lane change. The third car begins to close the gap left by the second car to maintain the desired vehicle following distance.

    Ohio State University's Center for Intelligent Transportation Research

The CyCab Automated Vehicle Outdoor Research platform

Autonomous Solutions, Inc

"Planning and Replanning Events for Autonomous Orchard Tractors" "Laser-Based Obstacle Detection and Avoidance System" "Design of a Rover With Six Intelligent Wheels"
Autonomous Orchard Tractors Laseer Detection and Avoidance System Rover With Six Wheels

    The U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) website may be found here.

    "Gentlemen, Start Your Robots."
    IEEE Intelligent Vehicle Symposium, Versailles, June 17-21, 2002

Las Vegas' Optically Guided Bus
In her hit movie Speed, Sandra Bullock drove a bus with a mind of its own, programmed to explode if it went below 50 m.p.h. Now buses on real-life autopilot are coming to Las Vegas. A camera mounted on the dashboard of the electric-powered Civis reads stripes painted on the road. If a bus strays even slightly from the markings, a motor on the steering wheel nudges the bus back in line.Human drivers, who control the brakes and accelerator, play only a bit part in this action flick.

Carnegie Mellon NavLab

Side Collision Warning System for Transit Buses - To develop a warning system which helps a driver of a transit bus to avoid side collisions with pedestrians, other vehicles, or stationary objects


Automated Golf Course Mowing
Toro Image

To achieve complete automation on golf courses, we are developing capabilities for:
  • Reliable obstacle detection.
    • Must be able to find obstacles as small as a golf ball, while not generating false positives.
    • Also must detect all true obstacles to keep the vehicle safe.
  • Precise navigation. Must be able to operate with cm level precision to create the cross-hatch patterns seen on premier golf courses.
  • Effective coverage. Must be able to create patterns that cover the entire fairway in an efficient manner

JPL'S Urbie, the Urban Robot

    This urban robot (Urbie) is a joint effort of JPL, iRobot Corporation, the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Southern California Robotics Research Laboratory.
    Urbie's initial purpose is mobile military reconnaissance in city terrain but many of its features will also make it useful to police, emergency, and rescue personnel. The robot is rugged and well-suited for hostile environments and its autonomy lends Urbie to many different applications. Such robots could investigate urban environments contaminated with radiation, biological warfare, or chemical spills.  They could also be used for search and rescue in earthquake-struck buildings and other disaster zones.

Virginia Tech's Autonomous Vehicle Team

Nevel, 1998 Virginia Tech has built four autonomous vehicles in three years of competition. They are named (in order of creation): CALVIN, Bob, IVAN, and Nevel. The Bob vehicle was later renamed Christine, and ultimately changed to Herbie.

Over the years, the vehicles have gotten progressively smaller. CALVIN was built on the existing frame of a golf cart, and was disassembled two years later for spare parts due to its lack of maneuverability. Bob was built on a child-size Honda ATV frame and has so far been the most successful vehicle, competing three years under three names. Now called Herbie, the vehicle will be retired to make appearances at publicity events and demonstrations. IVAN was built out of a riding lawnmower, although a major body overhaul in 1997 left only the drive system remaining. Nevel was our newest vehicle (hence the name) and was built from scratch using an innovative T-frame design with two drive wheels and a caster. Both IVAN and Nevel will be improved and return to competition in 1999.

A new vehicle is currently under development. Unfortunately, its design is top secret and can not be revealed until its unveiling in April.

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