Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous Vehicles

Rolls-Royce and Finferries successfully demonstrate world's first fully autonomous ferry

Rolls-Royce and ferry operator Finferries have announced that they have successfully demonstrated the world’s first fully autonomous ferry in the archipelago south of the city of Turku, Finland. Known as Falco, the 53.8-meter double-ended car ferry, which had 80 invited VIP guests aboard during the demonstration, navigated autonomously during its voyage between Parainen and Nauvo using a combination of Rolls-Royce Ship Intelligence technologies. The companies note that the ferry’s return journey was conducted under remote control. “Today marks a huge step forward in the journey towards autonomous shipping and reaffirms exactly what we have been saying for several years, that autonomous shipping will happen,” says Mikael Makinen, Rolls-Royce, President – Commercial Marine. Mats Rosin, Finferries’ CEO, adds, “as a modern ship-owner our main goal in this cooperation has been on increasing safety in marine traffic as this is beneficial for both the environment and our passengers. But we are also equally excited about how this demonstration opens the door to the new possibilities of autonomous shipping and safety.” Using sensor fusion and artificial intelligence, Falco detected objects and conducted collision avoidance. Using a recently developed autonomous navigation system, the ferry also demonstrated automatic berthing. All of these operations were conducted without any human intervention from the crew. The Falco is equipped with a variety of advanced sensors that allow it to build a detailed picture of its surroundings, in real time and with a level of accuracy beyond that of the human eye, according to the companies. The situational awareness picture is created by fusing sensor data. This picture is relayed to Finferries’ remote operating center on land—approximately 50 kilometers away in Turku city center—where a captain monitors the autonomous operations, and can take control of the vessel if necessary. During the tests in Turku archipelago, Rolls-Royce says that it has clocked close to 400 hours of sea trials so far. Among the technologies that have been successfully tested thus far are the Rolls-Royce Autodocking system, which enables the vessel to automatically change course and speed when approaching the quay and carry out automatic docking without human intervention. The collision avoidance technology has also been tested during the sea trials, in various conditions for several hours of operation.

Capital Metro launching autonomous vehicle project in Central Texas

Central Texas' transportation agency, Capital Metro, has announced that it will explore automated vehicle (AV) technology through evaluation demonstrations. Testing could begin as early as late July. If testing goes well, a pilot service is expected to follow later this fall. “Capital Metro wants to lead the charge - to be among the first transit agencies in the United States to showcase this technology to our 'smart' city. I believe this will be the largest public AV bus pilot in the country,” says Randy Clarke, Capital Metro's President/CEO. “This is an amazing opportunity to better connect our customers and community while also shaping the future of transportation.” A variety of entities are working together to initiate this pilot, including teams from Capital Metro, RATP Dev USA (a Capital Metro service provider), the city of Austin and autonomous vehicle manufacturers. “Autonomous vehicles are key to providing efficient and effective first-mile, last-mile solutions,” says Blaine Rigler, President of RATP Dev USA. “This project with Capital Metro further solidifies our commitment to bring transportation innovations to Austin that make it faster, safer and easier to move around the city.” The autonomous vehicle pilot project is expected to have two phases. The first phase will evaluate the performance of different autonomous bus vehicles from different manufacturers. RATP Dev and the vehicle manufacturers will analyze the vehicles, and will also work with city officials to test signal components and on-street performance. “Austin Transportation is excited to partner with Capital Metro on this groundbreaking effort,” says Jason JonMichael, Austin Transportation Assistant Director for Smart Mobility. “We're dedicated to making mobility safer, cleaner, more efficient and more equitable. This project has the potential to bring us closer to all of those goals and open up opportunities for future technological innovation.” Capable of carrying up to 15 passengers, these electric-powered vehicles will be ADA accessible. While the vehicles are being evaluated and in service, operators will be on board. Vehicle safety and the efficiency and performance of battery technology will be examined during the testing phase of the project, which is expected to take up to 60 days. While the testing phase is underway, the second phase of the autonomous vehicle pilot project will be initiated. During this phase, autonomous vehicle manufacturers will be able to submit proposals for Capital Metro to lease six vehicles for its in-service circulator pilot. Capital Metro anticipates the selected fleet of pilot vehicles will be in operation in the fall of this year, and for a period of 12 months, the vehicles are expected to be in service picking up and dropping off customers. During this time, a variety of things will be evaluated, including the overall customer experience, safety and the public's reception and adoption of autonomous vehicles. The specific corridor that the autonomous vehicles will travel has not been finalized, but representatives from Capital Metro have planned for the vehicles to serve City Hall and the Central Library. The vehicles would also be used to help Capital Metro customers make easy connections to other transit services at the downtown MetroRail station and Republic Square. A five- to seven-minute frequency of service is planned—tentatively— during the pilot. Capital Metro will not see any expenses from the demonstration and autonomous vehicle testing phase. After bids are submitted during the procurement (RFP) process, final costs of the pilot will be determined. RATP Dev USA is supporting the pilot, and also offsetting costs. During the pilot, customers will be able to ride the autonomous vehicles for free. Capital Metro says that it will be exploring partnerships to help offset operating expenses, in an effort to deploy the pilot program.

Weekend Roundup: May 8, 2020

This Week in the Unmanned Systems and Robotics World The FAA recently awarded a $1.6 million contract to advance unmanned traffic management (UTM) at the New York UAS Test Site. A team of five commercial companies—led by CAL Analytics—will develop a single, integrated contingency management platform (CMP) for UAS integration. (NUAIR) In University City, Philadelphia, drones were used to thank front-line workers in the fight against the coronavirus. The UAS formed images of medical symbols, a flattening curve, a waving American flag, a ringing Liberty Bell, the LOVE sign, and the message “Thank u heroes.” (The Philadelphia Inquirer) Just nine months after its vision guided vehicles (VGVs) reached two million autonomous production miles driven at customer sites without a single personnel safety incident, Seegrid has announced that its VGVs have now reached three million miles. (Business Wire) Artificial intelligence (AI) robotics company Covariant has raised $40 million in Series B funding. The company will use the funding to accelerate its partnerships, introduce AI Robotics to new industries, and grow its research, engineering and commercial teams. (PRNewswire) Gatik has introduced what it calls the first autonomous box trucks capable of delivering ambient, cold and frozen goods. The trucks are designed to transport goods on fixed, repeatable routes between distribution centers and stores. (Inside Unmanned Systems) The Royal Australian Air Force has received its first Boeing-built drone-jet hybrid prototype. Using artificial intelligence, the “loyal wingman” will supply fighter pilots with more information during a conflict by conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. ( A survey vessel owned by survey company Deep BV will soon begin operating in the Wadden Sea. The vessel will be commanded by personnel in the company’s Amsterdam office using the Sea Machines SM300 autonomous control system. (Marine Log)

Weekend Roundup

This Week in the Unmanned Systems and Robotics World Week of 12-25-2017 A UAS company called Quaternium is claiming a new world record for the endurance of a multi-rotor UAS. Quaternium says that on Dec. 24, 2017, its HYBRiX.20 fuel-electric quadcopter UAS flew for four hours and 40 minutes in Valencia, Spain. (Unmanned Aerial) LG Electronics (LG) and digital mapping and location services provider HERE Technologies (HERE) will work together to offer a next-generation telematics technology for autonomous vehicles. The companies will do this by combining LG’s advanced telematics technology with high-precision map data and location services powered by the HERE Open Location Platform. (LG) Smart Cincy, which is a working group focused on building smart cities and connected communities throughout Greater Cincinnati's Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana Region, is hoping that a driverless shuttle pilot program will launch in Cincinnati this year. If the program is approved, University of Cincinnati students and visitors to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport would be some of the first people to experience the technology. (Cincinnati Enquirer) Week of 1-1-2018 The U.S. Air Force has awarded Aurora Flight Sciences a new $48 million contract for the continued development of Aurora’s Orion UAS. Among its many capabilities, the Orion UAS can stay aloft for over 100 hours at a time, with payloads in excess of 1,000 pounds. (Aurora) As a part of the U.S. Defense Research and Development Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) Program, the U.S. Army has awarded a contract to Stryke Industries LLC, which will result in Stryke, along with its subcontractor Scorpion Computer Services, equipping the U.S. Army's UAS fleet with the artificial intelligence engine ScenGen. (PR Newswire) After more than 500 people attended free workshops in 2017 on commercial and government use of UAS, the North Carolina Department of Transportation is planning similar workshops for 2018. This year’s workshops will include UAS flight demonstrations, and will cover topics such as federal and state regulations, flight operations and data management. (WRAL) During the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Singapore, the country’s police force used a UAS to keep an eye on the festivities. The UAS, which was deployed for the first time during the countdown event at Marina Bay, is equipped with features such as red-and-blue blinkers, a searchlight, and an audio warning system. (Channel NewsAsia)

NIO, Mobileye partner to develop autonomous vehicles

Chinese automobile manufacturer NIO has announced a strategic collaboration with Mobileye, an Intel company that develops vision technology for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving, to develop highly automated and autonomous vehicles (AV) for consumer markets in China and other major territories. Through the collaboration, Mobileye will design a self-driving system that NIO will engineer and manufacture. The companies say that they will build on Mobileye’s level-4 (L4) AV kit. “We look forward to building our strategic collaboration with Mobileye in autonomous driving technology development, to further enhance the safety and capabilities of our vehicles, as we strive to be the next-generation car company and the best user enterprise,” says William Li, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of NIO. According to NIO and Mobileye, the self-driving system that they develop will be the “first of its kind,” as it targets consumer autonomy, and will be engineered for automotive qualification standards, quality, cost, and scale. NIO will not only mass-produce the system for Mobileye, but the company will also equip its electric vehicle lines for consumer markets, as well as Mobileye’s driverless ride-hailing services, with the technology. This variant is expected to be released initially in China, with plans to eventually expand into other global markets. “We are thrilled by the promise and potential of collaborating with NIO on electric autonomous vehicles, for both consumers and robotaxi fleets,” says Prof. Amnon Shashua, Intel. senior vice president and president and CEO of Mobileye. “We value the opportunity to bring greater road safety to China and other markets through our efforts and look forward to NIO’s support as Mobileye builds a transformational mobility service across the globe.”

Weekend Roundup

This Week in the Unmanned Systems and Robotics World An Oxbotica-developed autonomous vehicle called CargoPod is being used in London to deliver groceries to customers. The vehicle has eight pods on the back of it, and each pod has a crate that can hold three bags of groceries. After the vehicle is filled by human hands from a small distribution center, it sets off following a route to its drop-offs. Once the CargoPod arrives at its destination, the customer is alerted through a smartphone. That customer must then press a button on the vehicle to open the pod door, allowing them to collect their groceries. (MIT Technology Review) Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC) in Kalispell, Montana will begin offering two new courses, called UAS for Commercial Operations, and Unmanned Aerial Mapping Systems, which are both aimed at teaching students how to use UAS. The courses, which will each be worth two credits, will fit into the school’s Geospatial Technology Certificate, which is a new offering from the school. FVCC will also offer another course, called Introduction to Drone Flight and Photography, through its Continuing Education program, but that course will not offer any credits. (Daily Inter Lake) The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) is offering a free summer program, in which it will offer high school students that are deaf and hard of hearing the opportunity to explore different career options in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). The program will encourage students to get hands on experience with UAS and robotic technology, and provide them with information that can help them make a decision on a potential major as they begin to look at colleges. The program will also offer students the opportunity to build and fly their own 3-D printed UAS using a Raspberry Pi-based laptop, and they will also tour the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. (Electronics 360) A STEM camp focused on unmanned vehicles gave middle and high school students in Florida the chance to learn first-hand about UAS, underwater vehicles and robots. Gulf Coast State College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the Panhandle Area Education Consortium teamed up to put the camp on, and the camp was also used to draw to attention to the unmanned vehicle system programs at Gulf Coast State and Embry-Riddle. ( Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) has announced that it is expanding autonomous vehicle (AV) testing trials outside of the One North district. The trials will expand to neighboring areas such as the National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore Science Park 1 and 2, Dover and Buona Vista. By expanding to these areas, the LTA is hoping that technology development will be accelerated, by giving AV trial participants the chance to experience more on-road scenarios. (Land Transport Authority) Self-driving vehicles recently underwent road tests in Okinawa, which is a Japanese prefecture. During the tests, two four-seater electric carts equipped with routing technology drove near hotels and tourist facilities in Chatan, which is on the west coast of Okinawa Island. The tests were conducted by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (and other firms), and according to the Institute, future tests will involve driverless microbuses, as they travel short distances in other regions. (The Japan Times) Schiebel’s Camcopter S-100 UAS has undergone successful qualification flights for the French Navy. The trials, which took place in late May and early June, were conducted from the deck of the newest French Navy amphibious assault ship, called the Bâtiment de Projection et de Commandement Dixmude. During its trials, the Camcopter was operated by a French Navy crew, and it performed about 30 day and night takeoffs and landings from the vessel. (UPI) A Singapore-based start-up called OTSAW Digital will supply the police force in Dubai with a self-driving vehicle, that will serve as a mobile surveillance unit. Named the O-R3, the vehicle is equipped with 360-degree cameras that “scan for wanted criminals and undesirables.” It can also charge itself automatically, and it includes an onboard UAS that can follow individuals to places where the vehicle can’t drive. Dubai will reportedly be the first city in the world to use the O-R3 for everyday patrols. (The Verge) The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay in California has announced that in partnership with a gadget rental company called Lumoid, it is launching a new Drone Academy for its guests. Through the academy, guests will get the opportunity to learn how to operate UAS, as well as capture aerial photography and video. The Drone Academy will start with an informational workshop led by Lumoid at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, and then move to nearby Pelican Point Beach, where guests will receive a hands-on UAS flight and aerial photography session. (Unmanned Aerial)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs autonomous vehicle bill

On Thursday, June 13, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that “removes unnecessary obstacles that hinder the development of autonomous vehicle technology.” The bill, CS/HB 311: Autonomous Vehicles, removes barriers to the advancement of autonomous vehicles, and establishes a statewide statutory framework. “Signing this legislation paves the way for Florida to continue as a national leader in transportation innovation and technological advancement,” Governor DeSantis says. “I would like to thank the bill sponsors, Senator Jeff Brandes and Representative Jason Fischer, for their work in making Florida the most autonomous vehicle-friendly state in the country.” Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault says, “autonomous vehicles are the way of the future and Florida is leading the charge through the research, testing and development of autonomous vehicles. And now with this bill signed into law by Governor DeSantis, Florida is ready to lead the nation with this innovative transportation advancement.” The bill was signed at the SunTrax facility in Polk County, Florida. The signing of the bill celebrated the completion of Phase One of the facility, which is America’s newest autonomous vehicle test track. SunTrax is a national center for the research and development of advanced mobility technologies, and will be the only high-speed autonomous vehicle testing facility in the southeastern United States.

Xilinx and ZF Friedrichshafen partner to enable automated driving applications

With enabling automated driving applications in mind, Xilinx Inc., which specializes in adaptive and intelligent computing, has announced a new strategic collaboration with German car parts maker ZF Friedrichshafen that will result in Xilinx’s technology powering ZF's highly-advanced artificial intelligence (AI)-based automotive control unit known as ZF ProAI. Xilinx’s Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC platform is being used by ZF to handle real-time data aggregation, pre-processing, and distribution. The platform is also being used to provide compute acceleration for the AI processing in ZF's new AI-based electronic control unit. According to Xilinx, ZF selected the company's platform because it allows the ZF ProAI platform to be customized for each of its customer's unique requirements, thanks to Xilinx's Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC platform providing the necessary processing power, scalability and flexibility. “We are proud to partner with ZF on its ProAI platform and help solve the challenges associated with autonomous vehicle development,” says Yousef Khalilollahi, vice president, core vertical markets, Xilinx. “By providing an adaptable hardware platform, ZF can design flexible and scalable systems that seamlessly incorporate AI compute acceleration and functional safety (FuSa) through diversity in processing engines. We look forward to expanding our collaboration with ZF to take autonomous and AI innovation to the next level.” Torsten Gollewski, head of ZF Advanced Engineering and general manager of Zukunft Ventures GmbH, adds, “the unique selling proposition of the ZF ProAI is its modular hardware concept and open software architecture. Our aim is to provide the widest possible range of functions in the field of autonomous driving.” This approach is considered unique, the companies say, compared to other systems on the market, which commonly use a fixed combination of hardware and software architecture. That approach can potentially limit functionality and add more cost, the companies say.