As their tagline states, University of Minnesota (UMN) professors and students are driven to discover – autonomously that is.

With the assistance of Dataspeed’s engineering team, UMN and the Center for Transportation Studies are gearing up to have a fully outfitted autonomous vehicle on the road for research and testing.

A Chrysler Pacifica recently rolled its way out of the Dataspeed garage. From an onlooker’s view, the vehicle is equipped with a roof rack and an array of tech gadgets affixed. These sensors include several Ouster lidarsFlir cameras, a Mobileye camera, and Novatel GPS antennas. Additionally, hidden under the bumper are a few Continental radars. Dataspeed’s team carefully planned and mounted this suite of sensors to allow the vehicle to best see the world around it.

What a passerby won’t notice is the guts and brains of this smart machine. Underneath it’s shiny maroon paint, is the real intelligence – computing hardware jam packed full of Dataspeed’s custom self-driving R&D software. Complex, carefully programmed algorithms send electronic signals to the Dataspeed By-Wire Kit to actuate the vehicle’s braking, steering, throttle, and shifting.

So what exactly can this autonomous vehicle (AV) do right now?

With the Dataspeed Object Tracking Software Package, the vehicle processes 3D lidar, camera, and radar data to detect objects and pedestrians around the vehicle and track their motion over time. This output contains a list of metadata that can then be consumed for higher level systems.

Utilizing the above-mentioned software, the Dataspeed Highway Automation Package is the real showstopper. The vehicle can appropriately change lanes, center in a lane, and adapt its speed to the vehicle in front of it. With the simple press of a button on the steering wheel, the AV functionality is engaged. The vehicle reads the lane markings and determines the best vehicle position within the lane. With the flick of the turn signal by the safety driver, the vehicle senses for surrounding vehicles, type of lane marking, and determines if it’s appropriate to switch lanes. Once the lane is considered clear and safe, it moves over to the lane in the direction the signal was flipped. Furthermore, if it’s heavy traffic – no need to worry, as the vehicle will adjust its speed to the car in front of it.

Even with all this intelligent Dataspeed equipped functionality, the vehicle can’t simply just pick you up at your rural farm home at 8AM and transport you 45 minutes to your office located within a busy downtown area. A great deal of development still needs to be completed – of which UMN is excited to continue working on with their new vehicle. They’ll have the flexibility to tweak different controls within the Dataspeed software to best suit their specific research and testing.

The university and the Center for Transportation Studies are now equipped with the tools for success to level up their autonomy development.


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