Researchers at The University of Cambridge have created a cost-effective testbed for cooperative driving experiments. (Photo via University of Cambridge)

 

If anything, this would make for a fun toy. Get kids to run your research testing. Hmmmmm....

 

Recently, a team of researchers at The University of Cambridge created a unique experimental testbed that’s ideal for experiments involving cooperative driving. Consisting of 16 miniature Ackermann-steering vehicles called Cambridge Minicars, it looks like a less-fancy version of a Hot Wheels track. But the testbed plays an important role in cooperative driving experiments, which are often expensive and time-consuming due to lack of available low-cost platforms that researchers can use.

 

The team’s main goal was to build a “low-cost, multi-vehicle setup that is easy to maintain and that is easy to use to prototype new autonomous driving algorithms.” They also wanted to test the benefits of cooperative driving on multi-lane road topographies. The testbed is easy to use, and the system control is based on the workstation that controls each car individually.

 

So how exactly does it work? The testbed runs off a path-planning algorithm that uses positioning feedback, measure by an external motion capture system along with lane topography. With this information, the workstation then shows the trajectories for all the vehicles. The numbers are then transmitted to the vehicles over radio.

 

The positioning information measured by the motion capture system shows which cards close to each other on the lanes, which is then fed to the algorithms and “emulates decentralized control and vehicle-to-vehicle communication.” Because the setup can be used with a large number of Minicars, it's ideal for testing cooperative driving methods made up of a large number of vehicles.

 

"Our experimental testbed is unique in its size, scale and cost," says assistant professor Amanda Prorok. "The Minicar is one out of very few openly available designs; it fills a price-range gap and is especially attractive for robotics labs that already possess telemetry infrastructure, such as motion capture. The testbed allowed us to test various driving behaviors in a way that has not been done."

 

While there’s still work to do, so far the results have proven to be favorable. Using their testbed, the team found that cooperative driving can increase throughout by up to 42 percent. The results are promising and could help influence further research into multi-car navigation and cooperative driving.

 

"Cooperative driving strategies hold a lot of promise for the future of traffic," Prorok said. "However, more work still needs to be done in order to truly transition from a lab environment into the real world."

 

The results were published on arXiv.

 

 

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