Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.
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68 unmanned systems inside October/November 2016 LAND DRIVERLESS CARS Photos courtesy of NovAtel, Velodyne and KVH Industries installed on higher-end platforms where the initial costs of early systems can be tolerated. As the technology matures and the volumes of cars with this capability increase, there will be a natural migration to lower overall system costs," he said. "Since an autonomous driving system is a fusion of several sensors, the lower the cost of the individual sensors, the lower the overall price. These systems are all about sensor fusion at the [electronic control unit] level where many separate in- puts from a variety of sensors are brought together to provide an overall solution." NovAtel's interest in autonomous vehicle development dates to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge in the California desert more than a decade ago. Earlier this year, the company formed a safety critical systems group to leverage its aviation technology experience to meet requirements for driv- erless cars. Inertial Measurement Units Part of Autonomous Sensor Family Sensor companies are attempting to help au- tomakers achieve full autonomous driving, or Level 5 on the Society of Automotive En- gineers (SAE) and National Highway Trans- portation Safety Administration (NHTSA) driving scales. These guidelines basically say all functions, including driving, will be handled by the vehicle, not a driver. Such companies as Morton, Ill.-based AutonomouStuff, which combines several sensor technologies in its autonomous re- search and development platform; and NVIDIA, through its PX 2 module, offer driverless car developers technology options to accelerate testing. In the meantime, automakers are tak- ing different technological approaches to sensor integration, some more minimalist than others, said Jay Napoli, KVH Indus- tries vice president, sales and marketing. "Everyone is aware of the way GNSS can fail when a signal disappears in certain weath- er conditions. LiDAR, also cannot identify shapes in snow, rain, or even mist and fog," he said. "Inertial systems can't be jammed or fooled because they measure the actual motion of a vehicle. However, one drawback is that inertial units will have drift, which has to be corrected." Napoli said that a successful autonomous vehicle will have multiple suites of sensors including GNSS, radar, inertial systems, and cameras. "They seem to be the ones who can achieve SAE Level 5 [results]," said Napoli, whose company offers a fiber optic gyro (FOG) based inertial system for self- driving cars. FOG systems are part of an inertial mea- surement unit (IMU), along with acceler- ometers, which provide angular rate and acceleration data to track a car's position. Another company that offers inertial units for autonomous vehicles, Sensonor, said a major sensor challenge has been to measure feedback when a car turns. "We have been working with every car manufacturer who are building autonomous cars in the last two years," said Hans Richard Petersen, Sensonor vice president, sales and marketing. "Through that testing, we are finding that the only way to measure feedback, when a car turns, is to have a very good gyro. It's a picture that tells a car to do a specific turn within a few centi- meters," he said. Petersen believes FOG systems are too expensive for autonomous vehicles. "We have been testing sensors for autonomous vehicles for 10 years. "The cost of fiber optic systems make mass production of autono- mous vehicles not possible," he said. Market May Decide Sensor Technology… Regardless of what sensor is more dominant over another because of performance or NovAtel Offers SPAN products NovAtel sells three levels of products from its Synchronous Position Attitude and Navigation (SPAN) line to AutonomouStuff for use in the latter company's Vehicle Perception Kits. SPAN combines GNSS and inertial measurement units (IMUs) to provide positioning, velocity and attitude when satellite signals are unavailable or blocked. Velodyne's LiDAR products Velodyne's HDL-64E LiDAR sensor is designed for obstacle detection and navigation of autonomous ground vehicles and marine vessels. Its durability, 360-degree fi eld of view and very high data rate makes this sensor ideal for the most demanding perception applications as well as 3-D mobile data collection and mapping applications, according to the company.