An Autonomous Minivan for Busy Parents

Although minivans are a staple of moms and dads that drive their kids to school, soccer practice, and the like, this vehicle imagines a time when maybe they won’t even have to. Autonomous cars have been in development for some time, but the video after the break gives a nice close-up view of how this particular vehicle was built and some of the testing that went into it.

Of particular interest was the external luggage pod modified to hold vehicle electronics. Everything is nicely laid out with wire duct to keep it neat. Those in the manufacturing industry might notice several other off-the-shelf components including an area scanner at 0:24 and extruded aluminum framing at 0:45. The apparent “E-stop” button on the passenger side comes from industry as well and may make the rider feel a bit more safe!

If this wasn’t interesting enough, check out this autonomous car by Google that has already driven from San Francisco to Los Angeles!

Brain Car Interface

The AutoNOMOS labs project has found a new way to maneuver its vehicles, your brain. We have looked at a previous version that uses a mostly computerized van under remote control from an iPhone. This one however, named “Brain Driver”, places the operator in the driver’s seat with an EEG strapped to their head.

Going for a more sporty look, the current vehicle is a drive-by-wire Volkswagen Passat wagon filled to the brim with fun toys like LIDAR/ RADAR sensor technology, cameras, and a specialized GPS. The EEG interface is a commercially available Emotiv model, and after a few rounds of training on safe ground, the driver is placed in control of the car.

In one demonstration the car approaches a 4 way intersection, the driver only has to think left or right and the car (intelligently) navigates the turn after coming to a proper stop, and checking for obstacles. In the second demo car and driver are let loose on an unused airport to test responsiveness.

If you like brains, cars, robots, and spinning lasers join us after the break for a video.

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Use iPhone to run yourself over

run-yourself-down-with-iphone

The Spirit of Berlin team has developed an iPhone app to remotely control a minivan. They didn’t have to do much to the vehicle to get this working because the platform was  developed for the 2007 Darpa Urban Challenge. The iPhone connects with the driving circuitry via WiFi and offers a gas button, a brake button, and a steering button to enable the accelerometer for turning. The front camera video is transmitted to the iPhone in real-time.

In the picture above you can see the operator in the center of the van’s camera view. It looks like the van’s top speed is limited, but remembering our own ineptitude in piloting RC vehicles, we hope this doesn’t result in a Darwin Award. We’ve embedded a video after the break. Everyone loves to see some Mario Kart reeneactment. You can catch some around 2:28 into the video. Enjoy.

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Ripsaw MS1

ripsaw

The Ripsaw MS1 is an unmanned ground vehicle built by two brothers in Maine. The tracked vehicle can go 0-60 in 3.5 seconds with an 80mph top speed. In its current form, it has a 2000 pound capacity, which opens the possibility for many different types of weapon systems. Control is provided by two people: one driver and one gunner. They work in independent remote stations. The Ripsaw could potentially be used in any application normally reserved for a tank. It could lead a charge without putting soldiers at risk.

We’ve been watching this project mature since 2005 when it was being marketed as a Grand Challenge competitor. This week it’s being demoed at the Army Science Conference. Check out footage of it in motion below.

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