PALO ALTO, Calif., Nov 18, 2009 - What once seemed to be the stuff of science fiction – a car that can safely operate without direct input from a driver – is rapidly moving from the realm of science fiction toward reality. This is being clearly demonstrated with the Autonomous Audi TTS coupe research project, which has become a sensation worldwide.
This car is the direct result of work underway at the Volkswagen Group Automotive Innovation Laboratory – or VAIL – a collaborative effort set up by the Volkswagen Group Electronics Research Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif., and Stanford University to advance automotive technology.
The Autonomous Audi TTS project isn’t aimed at making motorists and the thrill of driving dispensable. Instead, it is intended to explore the best capabilities of current and future driver assistance technologies to help Audi enhance the experience behind the steering wheel for generations to come.
Dr. Burkhard Huhnke, executive director of the Electronics Research Laboratory, has noted that the technology found in the Autonomous Audi TTS could help dramatically reduce the number of fatalities worldwide. He also notes that it will help motorists respond more effectively to changing traffic conditions to reduce road congestion and allow better reactions to safety hazards. Taken to its logical potentil, Dr. Huhnke noted, the technology could return time to the cars‘ owners by taking care of routine driving chores, such as winding through a parking garage to an assigned spot each morning.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE AUTONOMOUS AUDI TTS
To study how advancements in communications, driver assistance and other technologies can help motorists react to traffic and safety challenges on the road, including more autonomous handling of routine driving conditions like bumper-to-bumper congestion.
RESEARCH PARTNERS AND ROLES
Volkswagen Group Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL)Convert a vehicle to drive by wire, develop a safety architecture to ensure a reliable autonomous drive with no safety driver, and implement Stanford control algorithms on a system jointly developed with Sun Microsystems.
Stanford University Dynamics Design Lab (SDDL), one of the member labs of VAIL -Volkswagen Group Automotive Innovation Laboratory-Develop robust control algorithms that enable the vehicle to drive at the limits of handling on a variety of surfaces, and lets it drive in various speeds and conditions.
Sun Microsystems-Specify a hardware platform that can run Stanford’s real time algorithms and develop a framework that enables Real Time Java (Java RTS), a combination of technologies that use the Java programming language developed by Sun Microsystems to provide a system for developing application software and deploying it in a cross-platform environment, to communicate with the vehicle CAN wiring harness and autonomous driving control system.
The VAIL partnership is based in Palo Alto, Calif. USA. ERL and Stanford University are both located there
OBJECTIVES AND WHAT’S AHEAD
An Autonomous Audi TTS coupe that can navigate many types of driving situations. One intriguing demonstration under consideration for 2010 is a run up Colorado’s famous Pikes Peak to replicate the 12.4-mile Pikes Peak International Hill Climb where Audi has demonstrated its prowess in performance and handling. The non-competitive environment would allow the Autonomous TTS to show its capabilities at various speeds and conditions, including drifting.
The Autonomous Audi TTS is nicknamed after Michelle Mouton, arguably the most successful female rally driver to date who played a significant role in Audi Sport racing history.
Currently in the testing phase, this vehicle and project continues its development for several still-to-be determined real-world driving challenges in 2010, including a possible drive up Pikes Peak in Q4/2010.
Official Name: Autonomous Audi TTS
Make and model: 2009 Audi TTS
Engine: 2.0 turbocharged FSI direct injection engine
Transmission: 6-speed S tronic double clutch transmission
Fuel Consumption: City 21 mpg / Highway 29 mpg / Combined 24
Power: 265 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 2500-5000 rpm
Top Speed: 155 mph (249 km/h)
Acceleration 0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds
Weight incl. sensor around 1470 kg / 3240 lbs
Steering: Modified “APA-BS” (Axially Parallel Actuation-Braun-Schweig), a new production electric power steering system with direct by wire control through custom ERL Electronics.
Throttle: Electronics from VW ERL reproduce signals to emulate a driver pressing on the throttle.
Brakes: Active brake booster from Continental with by-wire control through ERL Electronics.
Gear: Modification of signals exchanged between transmission and gear shifter using custom ERL Electronics on production hardware.
Parking brake: Use of stock electric parking brake from VW Passat through a custom ERL electric interface utilized on a previous “Junior” project.
In addition to multiple redundant systems for vehicle control and emergency shutdown, the autonomous TTS has a Solaris based system running a Real-Time Java System that monitors all sensors and actuators in the car and a Java RTS sub-system that can perform a vehicle shutdown if it determines conditions have become unsafe.
As a backup solution, the vehicle includes a telemetry system that can transmit all vehicle parameters to a receiving station up to 20 miles away, which can also shut down the vehicle remotely, or order the safety systems to engage and bring the car to a controlled stop.
The Autonomous Audi TTS utilizes an Applanix POS LV420 GPS and Inertial Measurement Unit to measure its position.
Hardware – two independent systems are being used in the Autonomous Audi TTS, the initial controller development is being done on an XPC target using Matlab and Simulink, both of which are the standard research tools from SDDL. The final vehicle controls are being run on ruggedized custom-built solutions running a Core2Duo CPU and Solaris operating system that is being developed in collaboration with Sun Microsystems.
Software – The SDDL is developing cutting-edge control algorithms that look to optimize the ability to control the vehicle under the most demanding circumstances. As these algorithms are finalized, they will be merged into a new framework. This framework is being developed at the ERL that shares many components with other ERL autonomous driving projects.
These projects are not designed around project cost, but to promote a leadership in the long-term regarding various real-world automotive topics.