Although the test vehicle – an adapted white Toyota Prius featuring a TU/e logo – will in principle be fully autonomous from Saturday September 15 thru Tuesday September 18 in finding its way between the car parks near Paviljoen and Auditorium, project leader Jos den Ouden will be behind the wheel all the time in order to intervene if and when necessary, he says reassuringly. “We use software developed within the project, which we are not allowed to use on the public road yet, so it stands to reason we are not taking any risk.”
Within the European AUTOPILOT project the added value of the Internet of Things is being examined for driverless cars, according to Den Ouden. In other words: how sensors in a wireless connection on and along the road can contribute to more efficient and safer transport. AUTOPILOT is a very large project, involving almost fifty partners and six test locations in different countries.
The TU/e campus is one of those ‘living labs’, the emphasis here being on traffic situations with lots of vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians. From TU/e the research groups of Gijs Dubbelman (VCA - Mobile Perception Systems Lab, Electrical Engineering) and René van de Molengraft (Control Systems Technology, Mechanical Engineering) are involved.
One of the things that will be tested the coming week is communication between the self-driving car and smartphones of pedestrians, as the project leader explains. “Whereas self-driving cars are equipped with large numbers of sensors, such as radar and video cameras, those sensors do not allow you to see through buildings, for instance.” When it can obviously be very useful indeed to know in good time whether there is someone approaching you from a side street.
That problem can be solved by having road users making wireless contact with each other. “For autonomous vehicles there has been a Wi-Fi-based technology, ITS-G5, for over ten years, which allows vehicles to communicate with each other”, says Den Ouden. But of course other road users do not have that equipment on board. For this reason honors students of TU/e have now developed an app for the smartphone that can communicate with such a vehicle. As a result, the car ‘sees’ the users of this app, is the underlying idea, even when they are located behind an obstacle. “And when the car gets too close, the app gives a warning signal.” For this first test there will be two to four test persons taking part with the app, he expects.
The second test revolves around sensors that measure continuously how busy traffic is on a certain part of the track, which information they transmit to the car. On the basis of this information the car itself must choose the quietest route between the car parks at Auditorium and Paviljoen (via DIFFER, or along IPO and Traverse). Den Ouden: “That test is conducted with shared cars in mind, which can in the future independently move to the place where demand is greatest, and can then automatically take the quietest and thus safest route, or can do so at the most suitable time.”
On Monday and Tuesday, too, the Prius will still travel along the track autonomously; the said entrances to the campus will then be open again, though, and the public will be informed on the spot about the running test and possible detours. “After Tuesday we will no longer drive autonomously and the campus will be released again fully.”
See the intranet for more information.