Case Study: SafeAI Team Turns to Dataspeed for Off-Roading Platform | Dataspeed

Use Case

• Algorithm development for off-road vehicle development


Ford F150 by-wire control

• Rugged storage rack for computing hardware


• Provides a reliable, proven platform for vehicle testing

• Reduces engineering costs and time 

• Ensures safe, yet adaptable hardware storage for future expansion and maintenance 

SafeAI is an artificial intelligence startup that focuses on developing autonomous vehicle (AV) systems, particularly for the mining and construction industries. The startup believes that applying advances in autonomy and artificial intelligence to mining and construction can do a lot to not only make work sites safer, but also increase efficiencies and boost productivity — building on what’s already been made possible with even the most basic levels of autonomy currently available on the market. Utilizing automated vehicles in this industry can help interconnect and optimize a worksite to help accelerate project completion times.

The Search for an Autonomous Off-Road Platform

Retrofitting a consumer pickup off-roading truck with autonomous capabilities would broaden SafeAI’s offering to the mining and construction industry. Not only could this pickup provide easy maneuverability for smaller hauling jobs, but it could also act as a research and development platform for testing AI perception and algorithms for their larger vehicles. 

SafeAI knew the first step in their pickup truck conversion was gaining electronic by-wire control of the acceleration, steering, shifting, and braking so that their AI stack could replace human driver input. With the company’s focus on developing the algorithm software, they sought out a plug-and-play by-wire solution. As one of, if not the only, provider of by-wire solutions for the Ford F150 4×4 truck, Dataspeed stepped in. 

Dataspeed’s By-Wire Kit is designed to alleviate the cost and time-consumption issues that are presented when engineering a by-wire platform from scratch. By choosing Dataspeed as their drive-by-wire provider, SafeAI was able to allocate engineering time for higher-level software projects. 

Converting a Ford F150 to electronic by-wire control requires specialized engineering work, as the F150 is manufactured with a mechanical shifter. By-wire shifting requires electronic shifting, which is available in other Ford vehicles. Dataspeed’s highly-skilled engineers, converted the original mechanically actuated shift lever to an OEM Ford rotary shift dial thus allowing full transmission by-wire control. 


“We chose Dataspeed as our drive-by-wire provider due to their reputation as an established player in the industry”, said Alexander Vartanian, an engineer at SafeAI. “Dataspeed and their products helped us reach our project goals by providing an easy to use system that is reliable to work with.” Vartanian recognized that the Dataspeed by-wire platform included some of the most reliable lateral and longitudinal controllers in the market and is trusted by companies across the globe. The technology yields very precise, repeatable motion control – an essential for performing accurate AV testing.

"Dataspeed and their products helped us reach our project goals by providing an easy to use system that is reliable to work with."
- Alexander Vartanian
Engineer, SafeAI

With the complexity of their development, SafeAI wanted to ensure there was ample space and mounting for the variety of sensors and computing hardware that will power the vehicle – all without taking up the useful truck bed.

With the team’s space specifications in mind, Dataspeed rapidly designed, prototyped and fabricated a custom compute rack to fit within the backseat of the vehicle. Typically, vehicle instrumentation storage racks are made from acrylic, which would not be strong enough to support the weight from the computers. Dataspeed constructed a rack from 80/20 slotted aluminum, so it was capable of housing five full size ruggedized computers.  The rack was designed with the future in mind, as custom shelving could slide in and out of the rack for easy accessibility to hardware for maintenance and other routine procedures.

Looking Ahead

With the addition of the Dataspeed Drive-by-Wire Kit, SafeAI is now able to deploy their perception, path planning, and AI algorithms alongside dozens of partnerships with lidar, camera, GPS, WiFi, LTE, security, and more. Their autonomous software solutions are built on top of their SafeAI Framework (SAF) — a highly flexible, safety-certifiable framework that meets standards developed for the rigorous requirements of the automotive industry.

Overall, SafeAI is appreciative that the Dataspeed By-Wire Kit and Custom Computing Storage rack expedited their Ford F150 autonomous vehicle retrofitting project, so they were able to exclusively commit their engineering team to the development of their mining and construction algorithm development. 

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