ANN ARBOR, Mich., Oct. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Every long distance commuter has
the same dream: to program their car to do the driving for them. The
realization of that dream may now be on the horizon, as 23 finalist teams are
preparing to compete in a road race of driverless vehicles Oct. 8 in the
desert near Primm, Nev.
Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Mechanical Simulation Corporation has played a role
in the 2005 Grand Challenge, applying its CarSim(TM) vehicle dynamics
technology for the two vehicles representing Carnegie Mellon University,
Pittsburgh. CMU's H1ghlander and Sandstorm vehicles earned the pole and third
positions in the Oct. 8 road course, to travel a 165-mile course in 10 hours
or less without human intervention.
Forty university and industry teams have designed and built
electronically-controlled autonomous vehicles for the Grand Challenge,
sponsored by the U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA). CMU's teams and the other 21 finalists are competing for a $2 million
first prize. But more important, DARPA will use this technology to program
future vehicles to perform vital functions during wartime and in other
military situations - without endangering humans.
Over the past year a team of roboticists, automotive professionals and
students from CMU has equipped their vehicles with the latest drive-by-wire
technology, electronic controls and computer assistance programs for
suspension, steering and braking. Mechanical Simulation has worked closely
with the CMU teams, using CarSim to predict vehicle behavior over a wide
variety of road conditions. CarSim simulates the dynamic vehicle behavior of
cars and light trucks, generating over 500 output variables that are
automatically plotted and animated for ease of analysis.
According to Daniel Bartz, a member of Red Team and a CMU specialist in
automated vehicles and road data collection, the team collected over 2,000
miles of three-dimensional road information. These data were entered into
CarSim, along with the functional design details of the vehicles. CarSim can
predict how the vehicles would perform through a range of course obstacles and
"CarSim is designed to be extremely flexible with the type of data it
receives," explained Bartz. "The benefits of simulation are significant -
accurate vehicle test results using experimental systems without spending
large amounts of time in road testing. And you save the vehicle from potential
damage on a rough course. We developed algorithms based on our models,
utilizing different speeds, soil and other road conditions, including natural
impediments such as rocks or trees. CarSim helped us see how the vehicle would
react to every condition at various speeds. We were able to better understand
when the vehicle will be stressed so we can avoid accidents that would
eliminate us from the race."
"Being able to predict vehicle reaction under actual road conditions is of
paramount importance to success in this event," Bartz said. "But the real-
world rewards are in terms of new vehicle design and military technology.
We're confident that much of what you see utilized in the DARPA Challenge will
be used on vehicles in a few years."
Who knows, perhaps that programmable drive to work is not that far off in
the future after all.
SOURCE Mechanical Simulation Corporation