MIT mech engineers create intelligent automotive co-pilot

Semi-autonomous system kicks in to help drivers avoid hazards.

Comments Off on MIT mech engineers create intelligent automotive co-pilot July 18, 2012
by Design Engineering Staff

Researchers at MIT have developed a semiautonomous safety system for cars that monitors a driver’s performance and makes adjustments to keep the vehicle from colliding with obstacles.

Developed by Sterling Anderson, a PhD student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Karl Iagnemma, a research scientist in MIT’s Robotic Mobility Group, the system combines an onboard camera and laser rangefinder to identify hazards in a vehicle’s environment.

The team devised an algorithm to analyze the data and identify safe zones — avoiding, for example, barrels in a field, or other cars on a roadway. The system allows a driver to control the vehicle, only taking the wheel when the driver is about to exit a safe zone.

Anderson, who has been testing the system in Michigan since last September, describes it as an “intelligent co-pilot.”

“The real innovation is enabling the car to share [control] with you,” Anderson says. “If you want to drive, it’ll just … make sure you don’t hit anything.”

So far, the team has run more than 1,200 trials of the system, with few collisions; most of these occurred when glitches in the vehicle’s camera failed to identify an obstacle. For the most part, the system has successfully helped drivers avoid collisions.

The group presented details of the safety system recently at the Intelligent Vehicles Symposium in Spain. This research was supported by the United States Army Research Office and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The experimental platform was developed in collaboration with Quantum Signal LLC with assistance from James Walker, Steven Peters and Sisir Karumanchi.