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What happens when driverless car meets delivery robot at an intersection?

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Just before Christmas last year, Telia and Ericsson opened a 5G pilot network on Tallinn University of Technology’s campus. It’s a permanent network, created for TalTech scientists and the local startup hub to test new applications that need next-generation technology.

Its first trial was to stream live 4K video from the Christmas market in Tallinn, which according to Telia Estonia, was the first live 4K broadcast in the region.

Although it will take some time until mobile end users in Estonia can start signing up for 5G, there are other areas where the technology is already being put to use.

One exciting project that’s now powered by Telia’s 5G network is ISEAuto, the first self-driving vehicle built in Estonia. ISEAuto is a last-mile autonomous shuttle, which is shorter and narrower than a Mini Cooper, although it is a meter higher than a Mini.

It is being tested on the TalTech self-driving car track. The vehicle has six spaces for passengers or luggage, with a 47kW main motor to give a cruising speed of 10kph to 20kph (6mph to 12mph).

The technology it uses to drive autonomously includes Lidar, ultrasonic sensors, short-distance radar, cameras, inertial measurement unit (IMU), and GNSS-RTK positioning technology.

Raivo Sell, a senior researcher at TalTech and one of the leading scientists behind the project, tells ZDNet that this month the team has already started the next stage of project, which involves building the second and more autonomous version of the car.

“The new version will be a street-legal version with optimized systems. It means ISEAuto v2 can perform pilot drives in urban environments,” he says.

SEE: The new commute: How driverless cars, hyperloop, and drones will change our travel plans (TechRepublic cover story) | download the PDF version

This next phase also involves the vehicle being tested and trialed in various countries.

“For example, we’re applying for pilots in Tallinn, Estonia, and Helsinki, Finland, as well as some later pilots in Latvia. We’re also starting to cooperate with Florida Polytechnic University to apply new testing and validation methods to our vehicle to make it safer and more reliable,” explains Sell.

Although ISEAuto is soon going to have the opportunity to explore new tarmac paths in various places around the world, it doesn’t mean it will be abandoning the smart-city environment of TalTech campus.

In addition to 5G and ISEAuto vehicles, the test area is equipped with intelligent road signs and is also being used by Starship Technologies’ autonomous delivery robots, providing rare opportunities for scientists and entrepreneurs to test solutions to problems that could emerge in the near future in various traffic situations.

“New test cases are planned for late January and February to test V2V and V2I communication. The first test case will demonstrate ISEAuto and delivery robot communication, to agree on their driving behavior at intersections. This requires low latency communication, which is enabled by 5G,” Sell says.

“The second case study involves real-time Lidar and camera-stream uploads to the cloud to perform real-time processing and cloud-based situation awareness analysis during the drive.”

The ISEAuto project started in February 2017, when Väino Kaldoja, CEO of Silberauto, one of the biggest enterprises in the automotive field in the Baltics, came to the university and proposed some innovative projects for TalTech’s 100th anniversary in 2018.

During the meeting with Raivo Sell, the idea of making a self-driving vehicle was agreed. The project started officially in June 2017 where both the company and the university invested 50 percent of the project cost.

“The project was very ambitious: to develop a fully operative self-driving car in one year,” says Sell.

A team of students was put together to work on autonomous driving software, sensor technology, and electronics, while Silberauto engineers started to manufacture the vehicle body.

SEE: IT pro’s guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

The project’s main objectives were to develop relevant expertise, offer practical, state-of-art studies for students, and create a smart-city environment on the university campus. Those goals have been met, and now the one-off project might end up as something much bigger.

“We’re now setting up the long-term financial and strategic plan for ISEAuto’s future developments,” says Sell.

“As so far it’s been a project-based initiative, we need to establish a long-term strategy. In cooperation with the smart-city concept on TalTech campus and our partner, the ISEAuto project will be reorganized to meet long-term objectives and business opportunities.”

The international interest is certainly there. In addition to receiving invitations to several fairs and exhibitions in Baltic and Nordic countries, ISEAuto has already received quite a few cooperation proposals.

“One of our partners in this project is ABB Estonia, and the project has also gained the interest from ABB headquarters in Switzerland,” says Sell.

“We’re invited to be a partner in several EU H2020 projects and have also started collaborating with Japan and US universities and companies. We’re just beginning a new partnership with Florida Polytechnic University and the International Transportation Innovation Center in the US.”

So, when can we see the first ISEAuto driving independently on the public streets? According to Sell, quite soon.

“Tallinn will announce the tender for self-driving last-mile vehicle pilots where we will participate. If we succeed, our vehicle will be in traffic by the end of 2019.” 

ISEAuto and delivery robot interactions are being tested using low-latency comms enabled by 5G.


Image: ISEAuto

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How self-driving tractors, AI, and precision agriculture will save us from the impending food crisis

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BMW iX5 Hydrogen Production Starts, But Don’t Expect To See This Fuel-Cell SUV In Dealerships

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The reality, though, is that even with a small number of BMW iX5 Hydrogen SUVs being produced — using individual fuel-cells supplied by Toyota, but assembled into a stack by BMW using the automaker’s own processes and technologies — the expectation is that hydrogen as a fuel will be predominantly of interest to non-passenger vehicles. Instead, it arguably makes the most sense, BMW suggests, for larger vehicles like medium- to heavy-duty trucks, along with the marine and aviation sectors. We’ve already seen Toyota reveal its plans for such an FCEV truck.

Despite that, and an acknowledgment that battery-electric vehicles will undoubtedly lead in the mainstream, BMW still believes there’s a place for FCEVs. After all, the automaker argues, if the infrastructure is being built to cater for trucks, there’s no reason not to also use it for passenger vehicles like the iX5 Hydrogen.

The results of the small-series production beginning today will be used as technology demonstrators across select regions from spring 2023, BMW says. It’s unclear at this point how many will be built. Depending on the reception and the strengths of the technology, series production of a first model could follow mid-decade, ahead of a potential full portfolio of BMW FCEVs from the 2030s onwards.

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Tesla Set To Deliver The First Semi To Pepsi

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In October, Tesla’s CEO revealed that the production of the Tesla Semi had begun, and it was bound to be delivered today. Tesla has already started the countdown, and we expect the unveiling event to go down at the Nevada factory. The electric truck will be dispatched to Pepsi, which had ordered 100 units. Investor reports that Tesla’s stock price increased by 7.7% on Wednesday, probably in anticipation of Tesla’s Semi first delivery.

Musk tweeted on Saturday that the “Tesla team just completed a 500-mile drive with a Tesla Semi weighing in at 81,000 lbs!” However, considering that Musk said that the company is dealing with supply chain issues and market inflation, it’s unclear if Tesla will stick to the original $180,000 price it intended to sell at when it was announced in 2017. Then again, Tesla offers a cheaper Semi that will be available for about $150,000 — but it can only achieve up to 300 miles at full load capacity. For now, we can only wait until it’s on the road to confirm if the specs match up to what was promised five years ago.  

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Coinbase Joins Elon Musk In Slamming The Apple App Store Tax

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Coinbase complained that Apple’s insistence on its cut unreasonably interfered with its business.

Coinbase’s argument was largely the same as Elon Musk’s, and the basis of Epic Games’ aforementioned lawsuit. According to all of the above, Apple was half of a duopoly: with Google, it controlled the global app marketplace. The “duopoly” part of the argument is pretty much incontrovertible: As of October 2022, both Apple and Google control 99.43% of the global smartphone market between them (via StatCounter). Both get a 30% cut of everyone’s action on its marketplace. From the perspective of Coinbase, that took too much money out of too many elements of its business.

Epic sued over that and, as noted above, won with an asterisk. Apple had restricted in-app purchases, and courts found that anticompetitive, but did require that Apple get a 30% cut of the profits, even though they took place in someone else’s app. In short, according to the Verge, the court said that if you’ve found a way to make money using iOS, you owe Apple 30%, period.

Epic thought in-app purchases should be exempted from the tax. Coinbase thinks elements of the NFT development process — in this case, gas prices to run the processing equipment necessary to mint NFTs — should be exempt from Apple’s app tax. Apple treats all user expenses on an app as in-app purchases and, per the Epic court decision, in-app purchases mean Apple gets a cut.

It’s not a simple problem, and it’s not likely to be solved anytime soon. Stakeholders and regulators have barely begun to integrate cryptocurrency and NFTs into the conventional marketplace. Who gets paid for what is likely to be a conversation for years on end. For now, all that’s certain is that conversation has begun.

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