29 Aug 2012


MIT researchers have developed a semiautonomous safety system which allows a human driver full control of a vehicle until it detects that the vehicle is heading toward a hazard or obstacle, at which point it takes control and steers to safety. When such a hazard is detected, the system will bring it back within a calculated safe zone, and then hand control back over to the driver. The so-called intelligent co-pilot system is the work of Sterling Anderson (PhD student at MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering) and Karl Iagnemma (principal research scientist at the Institute's Robotic Mobility Group). Instead of using a path-based control, such as self-parking systems where a driver allows the vehicle to take over control of the vehicle to safely park, the system uses selective enforcement of constraints.

Anderson and Iagnemma have put the system through more than 1,200 trials in Michigan since September 2011, where test drivers were sat in front of a computer monitor showing a forward-pointing video feed streamed wirelessly from a heavily modified Kawasaki 4010 Mule out on an obstacle-laden test range. The utility vehicle was equipped with a Velodyne LIDAR, an inertial measurement unit, GPS, an onboard Linux PC for processing the sensor and positioning data, and steering/accelerator/braking actuators.
Test drivers used a torque-enabled steering wheel and gas/brake pedals to navigate the vehicle over the obstacle course, occasionally receiving instructions from the researchers to head straight for an obstruction and let the system kick in and do its stuff. There were still a few collisions recorded, however.
In its current configuration and on a challenging obstacle course, the system reduces the occurrence of accidents by over 75 percent, while allowing the driver to decrease his/her course completion time by >30 percent. The researchers believe they can reduce the collision rate to zero with the integration of a tactical-grade IMU.

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