Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Can a laser scanner drive a car?

08.04.2008
A car that navigates city streets without a driver – steered only by a computer? That might seem impossible to many. But researchers from Fraunhofer and the FU Berlin are presenting such an automated vehicle at this year’s Hannover Messe on April 21 through 25, 2008 (Hall 25, Stand H25). Its core element is a three-dimensional laser scanner.

Can a computer steer a car through a city without a driver’s help? The ‘Spirit of Berlin’, a vehicle developed jointly by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems IAIS in Sankt Augustin and their colleagues at the Freie Universität Berlin, proves that it is possible.

The vehicle, which will be on display at this year’s Hannover Messe, made it to the semi-finals of the ‘DARPA Urban Challenge’ competition entirely alone –without a driver or a remote control. The Urban Challenge for unmanned vehicles is organized by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research arm of the United States Department of Defense. In November 2007, the third edition of the event was held at the site of a former air force base in California for the first time.

One of Spirit of Berlin’s most important sensors is a rotating 3-D laser scanner that was developed at the Fraunhofer IAIS. The scanner classifies the navigable route and is able to distinguish the street from footpaths, parking lots, houses and pedestrians. “The scanner, which is fixed to the roof of the car, constantly moves laser beams back and forth through a mirror on a vertical axis – it moves the laser beam from top to bottom and back again,” explains IAIS project manager Dr. Hartmut Surmann. “If anything gets in the way, such as a pedestrian, the laser beam is reflected and sent back to the scanner.

The software analyzes the information while the car is in motion and steers the vehicle in the right direction. The system comprises two back-to-back laser scanners that rotate in the same way as the flashing lights on police cars and are thus able to ‘see’ all of the car’s surroundings.” The lasers can record two complete images per second. One of the challenges involved is to keep adjusting the recorded values to allow for the distance covered. “At a speed of 36 kilometers per hour, the car moves 10 meters per second. Consequently, the measured data must constantly be adjusted to the car’s current position,” Surmann explains.

Does the new automated vehicle mean that the driver’s license will one day become a thing of the past, and that people can sit back and enjoy the ride without taking notice of traffic? “That’s quite unlikely,” Surman says. “At a price of 17,800 euros, the scanner is much too expensive for use in private vehicles, even though it is significantly cheaper than conventional models. The main purpose of taking part in this competition was to show what computers are capable of doing when they have the right sensors, such as laser scanners and cameras.”

But where are these laser scanners in use today? “Among other things, our laser scanners are applied to assess the visibility of advertising billboards,” says the scientist. The scanner determines from which perspective the billboard is visible, and whether the view is partially obscured by a tree or a streetlight. It also identifies the point from which someone driving by can see the billboard. Within seconds, the laser beam scans the entire area and delivers the desired information at an aperture angle between 120 and 180 degrees – similar to a panoramic photograph. The difference is that a picture does not provide the observer with any information on spaces and distances, but a laser scan does. “This makes it possible to determine quality criteria for the placement of a billboard, which could be reflected in the price. A billboard that can be seen in its entirety from any angle can be rented at a higher price than a board that passers-by can only see from one angle,” says Surmann.

3-D laser scanners can also be beneficial in the realm of freight transport, as they can help determine how much space a transporter has, where street lights are in the way, which bridges are too low and which tunnels are too narrow. While digital street maps do exist, they provide no information about available space. By driving the transport route beforehand in a car that is equipped with a laser scanner, it easy to create an exact model of the surroundings.

According to Surmann, the IAIS 3-D scanner’s biggest advantage is its price: The device only costs a third of what conventional 3-D scanners cost. This has made a number of new applications possible that were previously unprofitable for cost reasons.

Dr. Hartmut Surmann | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
Further information:
http://www.fraunhofer.de

More articles from Automotive Engineering:

nachricht Solid state batteries for tomorrow's electric cars
22.02.2019 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Silicatforschung ISC

nachricht The car of the future – sleeper cars and travelling offices too?
18.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation IAO

All articles from Automotive Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

Im Focus: Sensing shakes

A new way to sense earthquakes could help improve early warning systems

Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...

Im Focus: A thermo-sensor for magnetic bits

New concept for energy-efficient data processing technology

Scientists of the Department of Physics at the University of Hamburg, Germany, detected the magnetic states of atoms on a surface using only heat. The...

Im Focus: The moiré patterns of three layers change the electronic properties of graphene

Combining an atomically thin graphene and a boron nitride layer at a slightly rotated angle changes their electrical properties. Physicists at the University of Basel have now shown for the first time the combination with a third layer can result in new material properties also in a three-layer sandwich of carbon and boron nitride. This significantly increases the number of potential synthetic materials, report the researchers in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Last year, researchers in the US caused a big stir when they showed that rotating two stacked graphene layers by a “magical” angle of 1.1 degrees turns...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers measure near-perfect performance in low-cost semiconductors

18.03.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Nanocrystal 'factory' could revolutionize quantum dot manufacturing

18.03.2019 | Materials Sciences

Long-distance quantum information exchange -- success at the nanoscale

18.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>