The world is one step closer to fully autonomous vehicle technology in everyday consumer cars. Advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) technologies like lane change sensors, collision avoidance systems, and adaptive cruise control are creeping into today's vehicle designs more often.

Most recently, Gizmag's Ben Coxworth reports that Honda's 2014 Fit and Jazz models will sport the City-Brake Active System. Collision avoidance laser/radar units will be mounted in the windshield as part of the system that will detect and warn drivers of approaching hazards in heavy traffic situations.

Laser sensors, like those used in the City-Brake Active System, were among the first technologies adopted by the vehicle robotics industry as a way for vehicles to "see" and react to variables around them. Just a few years ago, these technologies were expensive and bulky; now they are compact and affordable enough to be part of new consumer models.

Collision avoidance and other safety sensors demonstrate the direction auto makers are taking to make driving safer.

According to Coxworth, the new Honda Fit and Jazz models will make their Japanese market debut later this summer, after which Honda will set its eyes on Europe.

ASI goes global by attending their first internationally hosted tradeshow, the Automotive Testing Expo 2013 Korea. Eric Budd, Sales Manager for ASI's automotive division, flew half way around the world to join 114 other exhibitors at the first Automotive Testing Expo held in Seoul, Korea. The show was well-received with more than 4000 attendees eager to see the newest and most innovative technologies.

"There were lots of smiles and head nods," Budd said of the attendees that visited the PGA booth (#7027).

"They liked the technology that we have and were excited with the prospects. Several people brought their colleagues back later to show them what we could do. It's great to see that we have that kind of impact on the industry."

ASI's key product offering at the Korea show was the universal Nav™, a set of robotic components that can automate most consumer vehicle models. The kit is durable enough to withstand a constant beating from durability or rollover testing and uses standardized components and sensors to eliminate much of the cost of engineering.

The implications of a lower-cost, reliable autonomy kit were not lost on the attendees in Seoul, and Eric saw a steady flow of visits from automotive and construction OEMs, private proving grounds, government agencies, and automotive suppliers.

One challenge of selling in a global marketplace is the language barrier. "You can't just count on people knowing English," said Budd. "More than half of the people coming by our booth spoke no English at all. It was something we were semi-counting on, and we brought brochures printed in Korean, but it was still difficult to communicate what we do."

Despite the language challenges, PGA was well-received, and the show was a success. "We had a lot of excitement surrounding our booth," said Budd. "People all over the world recognize how beneficial vehicle automation technology can be to their industries, and that was reflective of the people we had come by and visit with us."

ASI now looks forward to two back-to-back shows in June: the Automotive Testing Expo 2013 Europe, hosted in Stuttgart, Germany; and the AUVSI Driverless Car Summit in Detroit, Michigan.


DETROIT, MICHIGAN—November 7, 2012. A major automotive OEM performed a successful automated rollover test using an Autonomous Solutions, Inc. (ASI) Nav™. Many facets of vehicle durability and misuse testing are difficult to accomplish for driver safety reasons, one of those being rollover tests. OEM testers have devised a variety of ways to simulate a vehicle rollover, but most solutions are highly expensive and do not give researchers an authentic rollover scenario to derive data from.

Whether using an automated skid, outriggers, ramps, or slow speed rolls, testers aren't getting what they need to appropriately test vehicles," said Mel Torrie, CEO and co-founder of ASI.

"They're doing the best they can, but for an authentic rollover, you need a driver. It's just too difficult and too dangerous to effectively simulate a rollover and keep a human driver safe at the same time." Torrie explains that Nav has the capability to mimic the movements of a human driver to a degree never before possible. Durability testers can now perform authentic rollover scenarios.

"The beauty of the Nav is that testers can perform rollover tests at very precise speeds and angles," said Torrie. "The rugged design of the Nav protects the unit so testers can also move it from one vehicle to the next and start another round of testing. It makes destructive rollover testing surprisingly repeatable and very affordable."

With the success of this first rollover test, the OEM is now in the process of refitting the Nav to another vehicle for additional testing.

"[The major OEM] is very pleased with the results of this round of rollover testing," said Eric Budd, Sales Manager for ASI. "The implication of this successful test is that researchers will be able to provide more accurate data to manufacturers that will be used to keep consumers safer. This is very exciting! We look forward to more successful tests in the near future."

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About ASI

For nearly 14 years, ASI has been a world leader in unmanned ground vehicle systems. From their northern Utah headquarters, ASI serves clients in the mining, agriculture, automotive, military, and manufacturing industries with robotic solutions ranging from driver assistance to full, multi-vehicle autonomy. ASI's world-class engineering staff is dedicated to the ideals of innovation, safety, simplicity, and quality.

On October 23-25, automobile testing manufacturers, supplies, domestic and international OEMs, and government officials from around the world converged on Novi, Michigan, for Automotive Testing Expo 2012 North America. Eric Budd, Sales Manager for ASI's Automotive division, attended the expo in Novi to demonstrate ASI's testing capabilities.

"Our second year at the Automotive Testing Expo was a great success," said Budd. "While the number of vendors and attendees was down at the conference overall, the number of quality visitors to our booth was definitely up."

Eric went on to explain that many peripheral companies withdrew from the expo due to financial burdens of the economy. Their absence only ensured the remaining exhibiting companies were highly targeted to automotive testing, a fact very much appreciated by the conference attendees.

"Our most asked-about feature was our ability to run multiple vehicles simultaneously on a single track—or multiple tracks for that matter—with only one controlling operator," said Budd.

ASI develops a version of Nav™ that allows a single operator to coordinate multi-vehicle testing scenarios, durability tests, and high speed or destructive rollover tests. The operator is stationed at a remote location and coordinates the vehicles with a combination of GPS guidance, RF command signals, visual displays, and vehicle health indicators. Automated vehicles at one proving ground location effectively interact with other autonomous or human-driven vehicles, or they can independently run separate tests at disparate locations around the proving ground.

Transferability was another key feature of Nav that drew a lot of attention.

"Our ability to move Nav between vehicles was well received by our visitors," said Budd. "They were impressed that transferring Nav is easy enough that it can be done by their own technicians, not ours, and that it can be done in one working day." Nav is comprised of a set of universal components that are easily transferred between vehicles and even different models of vehicles.

The Nav is in use by two of the Big 3 automotive OEMs and was the primary ASI product being shown at the Expo. "All around, a very beneficial show for ASI," said Budd of the Expo. "It was very beneficial for us, our customers, and our potential customers.”

Cars driving themselves? It seems like something out of a Sci-fi movie like Will Smith’s 2004 hit, I, Robot. The concept might seem futuristic, but the attendees of the AUVSI’s Driverless Car Summit are trying to make it a reality.

In June 2012, more than 200 scientists, lawyers, engineers, policymakers, and corporations met in Detroit, Michigan, to discuss the possibilities of automated consumer vehicles on our highways by 2022. As one of the sponsorship attendees, Autonomous Solutions was able to send a member of our team, Eric Budd, to attend the sessions.

Below are Eric’s five key takeaways from the Driverless Car Summit (DCS) 2012:

Cultural Shift. In his opening address, Governor of Michigan, Hon. Rick Snyder, stated that one major obstacle to be addressed before autonomous consumer vehicles are accepted on public roads is cultural acceptance. The public as a whole still views automated vehicles either as a technology of the future or that isn’t reliable. What they may not realize is that autonomous vehicle technology already exists and is proven.

Driver assistance technologies like automated parallel parking and adaptive cruise control (known as ACC) are in the market today and bring us one step closer to cars that drive themselves.

A cultural shift doesn't happen overnight, so people are unlikely to believe the viability of automated consumer vehicles right now. But as car manufacturers implement proven driver assistance technologies, world culture will gradually shift from skepticism to acceptance of autonomous vehicle benefits.

Significant Benefits of Automation. From productivity to safety, automated vehicles provide many benefits to consumers. Chuck Thorpe, Assistant Director for Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, stated that one of the most compelling benefits of autonomous technology is its ability to avoid accidents.

In 2010, automobile fatalities totaled 32,708. Many of these highway fatalities were caused by distracted, drowsy, or substance abuse impaired drivers.In addition, according to Dr. Steve Underwood, Director of the Connected Vehicle Proving Center, University of Michigan–Dearborn, statistics have shown that the average person will experience three to four vehicle accidents in their lifetimes with one of those accidents involving personal injury up to and including the death. On the contrary, projections have shown the use of autonomous vehicles could eliminate up to 80% of the vehicle fatalities, potentially making these technologies significant highway safety methods.

Imagine, for a moment, the roughest patch of road you've ever hit. Jarring potholes, ridiculous speed bumps, loose gravel. Those are all unpleasant experiences for you and your car. When it’s over, sometimes you have to stop, give your dashboard a few strokes, and make sure you and your vehicle are still on speaking terms.

Now add all those obstacles together and multiply by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks out of the year. For durability testers at the automotive proving grounds in Detroit, Michigan and other areas, that is the norm.

Every day, vehicles from the nearby manufacturing plants of major OEMs are tested for durability and endurance over test tracks designed to stress new vehicles to the breaking point.

Historically, human test drivers have been used for durability and endurance testing, but the physical strain can be severe. Drivers are required to work abbreviated shifts, and some still experience medical issues, disability, or early retirement.

However, as part of an ongoing program with a Big 3 automotive OEM partner, Autonomous Solutions, Inc. (ASI) is paving ground for a new way to perform vehicle testing.

Using on-board vehicle automation technology and state-of-the art navigation software, ASI is pioneering the use of unmanned vehicles for endurance and durability testing with multiple vehicles. Mel Torrie, President and CEO of ASI, discusses the approach that ASI is using to combine unmanned vehicle technology and automotive testing and the benefits:

"When most people think of robotics, they usually think of bomb robots or vacuums, but there are a lot of other successful applications too. Especially when it comes to durability and endurance testing, unmanned vehicles bring many advantages over human drivers. Without even speaking to the health and safety of drivers, autonomous vehicles can operate 24/7 and can consistently reproduce the testing scenarios over and over.

In recent years, the MobilEye Driver Assist System has been integrated into several car makers products, offering vision-based features such as lane-departure warning, adaptive headlight control, traffic-sign recognition, collision avoidance and collision warning.

The system is able to intelligently detect obstacles in its path, such as pedestrians or other vehicles, and give warnings or take other actions.

MobilEye Driver Assist System
The MobilEye Driver Assist System helps consumer vehicles detect obstacles, particularly humans, in front of the vehicle and react accordingly.

Autonomous Solutions Inc (ASI) will integrate the MobilEye system into current versions of the Nav™ system to make our autonomous vehicles safer and more productive. The Nav onboard computer will enable remote operators to access and leverage data coming from the MobilEye sensor.

The system’s ability to detect and identify obstacles such as pedestrians and other vehicles will allow for easier and safer integration of our autonomous systems with current ongoing manned operations in mining, agriculture, automotive, and other industries.

Automated Rollover Testing
ASI's Nav™ performs dynamic rollover tests that simulate real-life situations, such as when a driver drifts to the road shoulder and overreacts with extreme steering.

Replacing human drivers with in-vehicle robots has many benefits for automobile testing. Besides the huge increase in test accuracy and safety, allowing a robot to drive the test vehicles allows for entirely new tests that would be impossible with a human driver.

Rollover tests are a perfect example of this. Currently there are a few ways of doing these tests, but most of them are capital intensive and very inflexible.

Cable-pull systems can be rigged to pull a vehicle off a slope or over a tilted ramp, or dollies can carry a car sideways and then stop suddenly, throwing the vehicle off and rolling it.

Cable-pull system tests are capital intensive, often do not accurately depict real-life situations, and require infrastructure changes to modify test parameters.

With ASI's Nav™, car makers and test facilities can perform many types of dynamic rollover tests without endangering a human driver.

Durability and misuse tests attempt to replicate real-life situations that often lead to roll-overs, such as when drivers drift off the shoulder of the road and then over-correct as they turn back.

Nav can replicate these extreme situations in a manner that allows testers to isolate and alter variables without having the build or modify fixed infrastructure.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) specifies what tests are performed on each vehicle, and these tests are constantly becoming more vigorous and will continue on that path. Autonomous Vehicle systems from ASI allow OEMs and test facilities to quickly adapt to these changing standards.

For automotive durability testing, human drivers are given well over a dozen test procedures to execute accurately and repetitively as they try to put years of wear and tear on a vehicle in just a few weeks. Test procedures require them to drive a given test course at a specific set of speeds, engage the transmission, throttle, brakes, and steering in specific sequences, at certain RPMs, and for a specified duration. Currently there are no real accountability or feedback options to determine if the tests were carried out correctly.

Autonomous Solutions Inc (ASI) is changing the way durability testing is done. By request from a major OEM, ASI is currently working to create a new version of Mobius™ for use in fleet monitoring.

This new version will leverage ASI's extensive experience with vehicle automation to monitor all critical vehicle functions including transmission state, brake and throttle position, RPM, and steering wheel position. Additionally, full remote access to the on-board computer will allow for monitoring and logging of other vehicle functions.

With Mobius, fleet supervisors at test facilities will be able to easily get reports on all tests performed, comparing the actual results to the test specifications. In addition to summary reports, event-based alerts can be set up to notify supervisors immediately when certain conditions are met, or the performance of a driver can be monitored in real-time.

Creating test routines can be done in several easy ways. Test engineers can simply drive a test sequence and have Mobius record everything they do.

The system will then monitor how closely other drivers conform to the pre-recorded routine. Alternately a test could be created manually by entering parameters into Mobius or by modifying a recorded test.

While Mobius can be used strictly as a monitoring device for fleet operations, the same system can be used to command a fully autonomous vehicle fleet, removing the human element completely. This not only protects human drivers from dangerous testing procedures, but also ensures that tests are carried out exactly as specified, 24/7.

Since September of 2011, ASI's automotive customer has put thousands of miles on our vehicle automation kits running the kinds of routes normally driven by human operators to test the durability of new automobile models. This has allowed ASI to prove the reliability of its hardware, software, and controls, as test site operators execute test procedures 24/7.

When you see a durability track like the one pictured (just an example, not affiliated with ASI), it isn’t hard to see how removing human operators from the process would be great!

Drivers are thrown around ruthlessly while they drive at high speeds across such insanely rough surfaces. Test facilities are forced to severely limit the time their drivers are allowed to stay in the vehicle, and even then strain and injury is common.

Removing the human element from the equation is beneficial in several ways. First, since the vehicle automation kit never gets tired or sore, tests can be run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Secondly, removing the human element allows for more rigorous and dangerous tests, such as higher speed runs on pot-hole tracks and realistic rollover tests.

Durability Test Track
Durability test tracks are very rough—in most cases, human drivers are limited to abbreviated shifts. Automated vehicles can safely navigate these tracks 24/7.

Thirdly, if a certain driving situation yields interesting results, the robot driver kit can duplicate the exact circumstances that led up to the event, including speed, rpm, gear, steering wheel position, brake and gas pedal position, and location on the track.

In addition to these and other benefits, test facilities using ASI's Nav™ can monitor in real-time how all their tests are proceeding, and ensure that they are carried out to the exact specifications required. ASI's site control software, Mobius™ command & control software, allows multiple vehicles to be controlled and monitored by a single operator at a single location.

Vehicle durability test tracks are used by all major automobile manufacturers. Take a look at some of their facilities across the globe, or read up on durability and safety testing in general.