Drive-by-wire control makes driving decisions almost human

Aug. 9, 2007
Developed by engineers at Virginia Tech, the technology will become part of their entry into the Darpa Urban Challenge

Julie Kalista
Online Editor

The Challenge is a robotic vehicle R&D program that hopes to expand technologies that will keep soldiers off the battlefield. The Challenge features unmanned cars and trucks maneuvering in a mock city environment, executing simulated military supply missions while merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections, and avoiding obstacles.

Victor Tango, the Virginia Tech team, is one of the 36 semi-finalist teams vying for the $2 million dollar top prize. They have converted two Escape hybrids donated by Ford Motor Co. into robotic vehicles with drive-by-wire system, four computers, cameras, and a GPS. Drive-by-wire lets the computer control throttle, brake, steering, and shifting. On Odin, Virginia Tech's vehicle, the computers process sensor acts.

From three laser scanners mounted on the vehicle's bumpers, they scan a combined 360° field of view 12.5 times per second. Four more laser scanners are mounted on the roof rack: two to detect small obstacles like curbs and potholes and the others to check the vehicle's blind spots when it changes lanes or merges into traffic. Odin's GPS works with an inertial measurement unit and wheel-speed sensors to measure movement in all directions.

Odin can drive on marked roads, follow moving traffic, pass stopped vehicles, handle four-way intersections, and perform three-point turns. The team is working on merging, passing, and parking.

Urban Challenge is conducted as a series of qualification steps leading to a competitive final event, scheduled for November 3, 2007. The exact location will be announced before the National Qualification Event for October 2007. DARPA is offering $2M for the fastest vehicle, and $1M and $500,000 for second and third place.

More Information:
Darpa Urban Challenge
Victor Tango Team Homepage

This web-only article appears in the Electrical & Electronic e-newsletter. If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, sign up today for our free e-mail newsletters!

Sponsored Recommendations

The entire spectrum of drive technology

June 5, 2024
Read exciting stories about all aspects of maxon drive technology in our magazine.


May 15, 2024
Production equipment is expensive and needs to be protected against input abnormalities such as voltage, current, frequency, and phase to stay online and in operation for the ...

Solenoid Valve Mechanics: Understanding Force Balance Equations

May 13, 2024
When evaluating a solenoid valve for a particular application, it is important to ensure that the valve can both remain in state and transition between its de-energized and fully...

Solenoid Valve Basics: What They Are, What They Do, and How They Work

May 13, 2024
A solenoid valve is an electromechanical device used to control the flow of a liquid or gas. It is comprised of two features: a solenoid and a valve. The solenoid is an electric...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Machine Design, create an account today!