Lawrence Technological University has begun the research and development of an autonomous campus taxi thanks to donations from several corporate partners.
Hyundai MOBIS, the parts and service division of the Korean automaker, donated $15,000 for the purchase of a Polaris GEM e2 two-seat electric vehicle. Dataspeed Inc., a Rochester Hills engineering firm specializing in mobile robotics and autonomous vehicle technology, converted the vehicle to an autonomous drive-by-wire system.
Also donating to the effort were a pair of Ann Arbor high-tech firms – Soar Technology Inc. provided a LIDAR (laser-based radar) unit to help the vehicle find its way, while Realtime Technologies Inc., a simulation technology firm, provided a cash donation.
Hyundai MOBIS formally turned the keys of the vehicle over to LTU Provost Maria Vaz and C.J. Chung, professor of computer science, in a ceremony on the LTU campus last week. Vaz thanked the sponsors for providing a great learning and research opportunity. David Agnew, director of advanced engineering at MOBIS, made the presentation.
LTU computer science students have already won an international award with the vehicle. They developed software to make the car operate autonomously – well enough that it took first place in the new Spec 2 division of the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition, held at Oakland University in June. The Spec 2 competition required multiple self-driving vehicle functions such as lane following, lane change, traffic sign detection, obstacle avoidance, and left turns.
After winning at IGVC, team members began reprogramming the vehicle to serve as an autonomous taxi on the LTU campus. It’s been rechristened ACT, an acronym for Autonomous Campus Transport/Taxi, in a naming contest won by Nick Paul, one of the team members. Chung said the university is planning to introduce Level 3 autonomy with the vehicle – allowing both hands and eyes off the road – by August 2018.
A video of the car in competition at the IGVC is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSzxPp66vxk&feature=youtu.be.