CarSim(TM) Helps Race Team Find Its Way on Robotic Race Course

Carnegie Mellon Vehicles To Start In First & Third Position In Oct. 8 Race

Oct 06, 2005, 01:00 ET from Mechanical Simulation Corporation

    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
 weather conditions.
     "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