Saturday, July 24, 2010

Autonomous Unmanned Vehicles Currently Driving from Italy to China to Improve Driver Assistance Technology

Once you have an automated vehicle, then you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. VisLab developed this technology.


VIAC presented in San Diego
21-2-2010 08:06

The VisLab Intercontinental Autonomous Challenge was presented in San Diego, CA.

San Diego, California, February 20, 2010 --- The official presentation of the experiment that University of Parma’s VisLab will start next July 10th has just ended; it demonstrates a big step forward in the driver assistance technology developed in the last 15 years by the Italian research laboratory.

VisLab, thanks to an important grant received from ERC (European Research Council) is performing research aimed at providing vehicles with perception capabilities in order to reduce the number of road accidents and –as an ultimate goal- even for completely autonomous driving. VisLab’s project was further selected by ERC to represent European research at an international level; the presentation was held at the European Community booth at AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) at the presence of Dr. Pablo Amor, Head of ERC grand management Department, and VisLab’s coordinator Prof. Alberto Broggi.

As one of the project’s intermediate steps (the project runs from Dec 2008 to Nov 2013) VisLab is going to test the results with a 13,000 km trip from Italy to China. “Besides moving autonomously –project coordinator Alberto Broggi explains- the vehicles will record all data throughout the trip (7 cameras, 6 laserscanners, GPS, IMU, and complete vehicle odometry) creating a unique database that will allow us to virtually travel the whole trip a number of times; the experience obtained on such a long and extreme trip will allow us to validate the systems that we develop with respect to both software (we will have to face very different situations and road scenarios) and hardware (the systems will be continuously stressed for 3 months in extreme road and environmental conditions).”

The event will also have a remarkable strategic importance from an industrial point of view: the vehicles (Porter Piaggio), conveniently chosen of reduced size and electrical, will be ready to be used to automate goods handling in last mile urban areas.

The energetic supply from renewable sources will make this kind of mobility sustainable and environment friendly. In particular, the automatic driving system will be energy-autonomous, being powered by a solar panel installed on the vehicle roof.

Moreover VisLab’s technologies tested from Italy to China may be transferred to other vehicles and applied to other fields as agriculture, earth moving, constructions, in extreme environments, … where the employment of a vehicle able to move without any driver will bring remarkable economical as well as social advantages.

The driverless vehicles that will traverse Europe and Asia towards Shanghai are two, implementing different technological solutions: “boosted” the former, bringing scientific experiments to the limit; more conservative the latter, ready to be industrially exploited.

The adventure will start from Italy on July 10, 2010 and will end in Shanghai, China, on October 10, 2010 at the 2010 World Expo, where the vehicles will be displayed. Media coverage and logistics will be dealt with by an exceptional partner: Overland, with a longtime experience on adventurous trips and extreme challenges.

Besides stopping in the main cities reached during the 3 months trip in order to offer technical demonstrations and explanatory presentations, the experiment will be considered as finished once that some Italian goods, loaded in Italy on one of the automatic vehicles, will have, first time in history, reached their destination after a 13,000 km ground trip with no human driver.

“I’m particularly proud that ERC selected my project –concludes Alberto Broggi- as it gives us the opportunity to push our research towards topics that usually companies in this field avoid to consider, since they don’t offer a short term applicability. This fact will provide clear advantages to us in the near future, when autonomous vehicles will be of direct interest to vehicle companies.”

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