General Motors will demonstrate an unmanned Chevrolet Tahoe, at the Consumer Electronics Show, that used electronics to successfully 'drive' itself through a 60-mile urban course in November to win a prestigious US Defence Department-sponsored competition. Its electronic technology is so promising that it could lead to production vehicles that eliminate the most common cause of crashes - driver error.
The Tahoe, named 'Boss', after the nickname of GM research and development founder Charles F. Kettering, was developed by Carnegie Mellon University, General Motors and other partner companies.
It uses a combination of LIDAR, radar, vision and mapping / GPS systems to see the world around it. It recognizes road geometry and perceives other traffic and obstacles on the road, and - using intelligent algorithms and computer software - figures out where it's safe to drive in order to avoid obstacles while completing the driving mission.
Boss recently navigated 60 miles of urban traffic, busy intersections and stop signs in less than six hours to win the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) 2007 Urban Challenge competition.
"Not only can we use electricity in place of gasoline to propel the next generation of vehicles, the electronic technology in vehicles such as Boss can provide society with a world in which there are no car crashes, more productive commutes and very little traffic congestion," said Larry Burns, GM Vice President, R&D and Strategic Planning, adding that the technology in Boss is a stepping stone toward a day when commuters can do their e-mail, eat breakfast and even watch the news while being 'chauffeured' to work.
"This competition significantly advanced our understanding of what is needed to make driverless vehicles a reality as we continue to reinvent the automobile," Burns said.
Today's vehicles already feature an emerging family of electronic driver-assist technologies - known as autonomous driving - aimed at reducing driver errors that can result in crashes. Electronics-enabled autonomous driving is a significant technology advancement that will impact future transportation.
Technologies already on today's vehicles include adaptive cruise control, stability control systems such as GM's StabiliTtrak, GM's GPS-enabled OnStar safety and security system, pre-crash sensors, side blind zone assist, and lane departure warning systems. While these technologies are not a substitute for driver responsibility and attention, they can help reduce errors that can lead to crashes, enhance occupant safety and address traffic congestion.
In addition to its premier sponsorship of the Tartan Racing Team, which managed Boss through the DARPA competition, GM is working with Carnegie Mellon University on autonomous driving technologies through its collaborative research laboratory at the university in Pittsburgh. According to Alan Taub, GM Executive Director, Research and Development, collaboration with universities and supplier partners is vital to the development of this technology.
In addition to GM and Carnegie Mellon University, the Tartan Team's winning DARPA Challenge entry was supported by Caterpillar, Continental AG, Intel, Google, Applanix, TeleAtlas, Vector, Ibeo, Mobileye, CarSim, CleanPower Resources, M/A-COM, NetApp, Vector, CANtech, and Hewlett Packard.