University gears up with autonomous platform for research and testing

Jon Hall

24th March 2022

University AV platform for research and testing

With the assistance of the Dataspeed engineering team, the University of Minnesota (UMN) and the Center for Transportation Studies are developing a fully outfitted autonomous vehicle for research and testing.

Optimising the vehicles vision

University autonomous platform with Ouster LiDAR
The vehicles roof rack supports an array of sensors

A Chrysler Pacifica is being used as the platform, with its array of enabling technology including several Ouster LiDAR sensors, Flir cameras, a Mobileye camera, Novatel GPS antennas, and Continental radars. The suite of sensors was planned and mounted in such a way as to optimise the vehicle’s view of the world.

Whereas these devices are visible to passers-by, the brains of the project are hidden from sight.  The platform’s computing hardware, safely stored in the boot, is powered by 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, accelerator, and gear shifting.

Current capabilities

AV compute hardware is stored in the boot
Compute hardware is safely housed in the boot

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 used by higher-level systems.

Using the tracking software, the Dataspeed Highway Automation Package enables the vehicle to change lanes, remain aligned within the lane, and adapt its speed relative to the vehicle in front. Simply pressing a button on the steering wheel engages the AV functionality.

The vehicle reads the lane markings, determining the best position within the lane.  When the safety driver hits the indicators, the vehicle senses for surrounding vehicles, type of lane marking, determining if it’s appropriate to move lanes. Once the lane is considered clear and safe, it changes to the lane in the direction indicated.  In heavy traffic, the vehicle will adjust its speed to the car in front of it.

Even with all this intelligent Dataspeed functionality on board, the vehicle is not yet in a position to pick you up from home and transport you to the office.  There is still a significant amount of development that needs to be done – development that the UMN project will continue with over the coming months and years, with the flexibility of the Dataspeed solutions allowing them to configure the platform in the way that best suits their specific research and testing.

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