Carnegie Mellon researchers bring NSF-funded autonomous vehicle to D.C. to show promise of driverless cars
In the coming decades, we will likely commute to work and explore the countryside in autonomous, or driverless, cars capable of communicating with the roads they are traveling on. A convergence of technological innovations in embedded sensors, computer vision, artificial intelligence, control and automation, and computer processing power is making this feat a reality.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University demonstrate the autonomous vehicle they developed with NSF support at an event in September 2013. Their driverless car arrived in Washington, D.C., in June 2014 for a demonstration at the Capitol.
Credit: Carnegie Mellon University
This week, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) will mark a significant milestone, demonstrating one of the most advanced autonomous vehicles ever designed, capable of navigating on urban roads and highways without human intervention. The car was brought to Washington, D.C., at the request of Congressman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, who participated in a 33-mile drive in the autonomous vehicle between a Pittsburgh suburb and the city's airport last September.
Developed with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Transportation, DARPA and General Motors, the car is the result of more than a decade of research and development by scientists and engineers at CMU and elsewhere. Their work has advanced the underlying technologies--sensors, software, wireless communications and network integration--required to make sure a vehicle on the road is as safe--and ultimately safer--without a driver than with one. (In the case of the Washington, D.C., demonstration, an engineer will be on hand to take the wheel if required.)
"This technology has been enabled by remarkable advances in the seamless blend of computation, networking and control into physical objects--a field known as cyber-physical systems," said Cora Marrett, NSF deputy director. "The National Science Foundation has long supported fundamental research that has built a strong foundation to enable cyber-physical systems to become a reality--like Dr. Raj Rajkumar's autonomous car."
Raj Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and robotics at CMU, is a leader not just in autonomous vehicles, but in the broader field of cyber-physical systems, or CPS. Such systems are already in use in sectors such as agriculture, energy, healthcare and advanced manufacturing, and they are poised to make an impact in transportation as well.
"Federal funding has been critical to our work in dealing with the uncertainties of real-world operating conditions, making efficient real-time usage of on-board computers, enabling vehicular communications and ensuring safe driving behaviors," Rajkumar said.
In 2007, Carnegie Mellon's then state-of-the-art driverless car, BOSS, took home the $2 million grand prize in the DARPA Urban Challenge, which pitted the leading autonomous vehicles in the world against one another in a challenging, urban environment. The new vehicle that Rajkumar is demonstrating in Washington, D.C., is the successor to that vehicle.
Unlike BOSS, which was rigged with visible antennas and large sensors, CMU's new car--a Cadillac SRX--doesn't appear particularly "smart." In fact, it looks much like any other car on the road. However, top-of-the-line radar, cameras, sensors and other technologies are built into the body of the vehicle. The car's computers are tucked away under the floor.
The goal of CMU's researchers is simple but important: To develop a driverless car that can decrease injuries and fatalities on roads. Automotive accidents result in 1.2 million fatalities annually around the world and cost citizens and governments $518 billion. It is estimated that 90 percent of those accidents are caused by human error.
"Because computers don't get distracted, sleepy or angry, they can actually keep us much safer--that is the promise of this technology," Rajkumar said. "Over time, the technology will augment automotive safety significantly."
In addition to controlling the steering, speed and braking, the autonomous systems in the vehicle also detect and avoid obstacles in the road, including pedestrians and bicyclists.
In their demonstration in D.C., cameras in the vehicle will visually detect the status of traffic lights and respond appropriately. In collaboration with the D.C. Department of Transportation, the researchers have even added a technology that allows some of the traffic lights in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington to wirelessly communicate with the car, telling it the status of the lights ahead.
NSF has supported Rajkumar's work on autonomous vehicles since 2005, but it is not the only project of this kind that NSF supports. In addition to CMU's driverless car, NSF supports Sentry, an autonomous underwater vehicle deployed at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and several projects investigating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) including those in use in search and rescue and disaster recovery operations. Moreover, NSF supports numerous projects that advance the fundamental theories and applications that underlie all autonomous vehicles and other cyber-physical systems.
In the last five years, NSF has invested over $200 million in CPS research and education, building a foundation for the smart systems of the future.
Raj Rajkumar, Carnegie Mellon University, 412-268-8707, firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
Aaron Dubrow | Eurek Alert!
Automated driving: Steering without limits
05.02.2016 | FZI Forschungszentrum Informatik am Karlsruher Institut für Technologie
Pioneering joining technology for high performance hybrid automotive parts
18.12.2015 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT
Transparent electronics devices are present in today’s thin film displays, solar cells, and touchscreens. The future will bring flexible versions of such devices. Their production requires printable materials that are transparent and remain highly conductive even when deformed. Researchers at INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials have combined a new self-assembling nano ink with an imprint process to create flexible conductive grids with a resolution below one micrometer.
To print the grids, an ink of gold nanowires is applied to a substrate. A structured stamp is pressed on the substrate and forces the ink into a pattern. “The...
A new Fraunhofer MEVIS method conveys medical interrelationships quickly and intuitively with innovative visualization technology
On the monitor, a brain spins slowly and can be examined from every angle. Suddenly, some sections start glowing, first on the side and then the entire back of...
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.
While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.
Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.
Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...
Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases
Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...
15.07.2016 | Event News
15.07.2016 | Event News
11.07.2016 | Event News
27.07.2016 | Earth Sciences
27.07.2016 | Materials Sciences
27.07.2016 | Earth Sciences