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Robocar Teams and Projects
This is a list of major self-driving vehicle projects. If you have a team not listed here with an operating vehicle send me E-mail.
Projects tend to fall in two classes.
Google's sleek cars have driven over one million km (Sept 2013) on public streets, handling highways, traffic, merging, pedestrians, traffic lights, cyclists and more. You will find many articles in the mainstream press on this effort. You can also read a short article on the Google car I wrote before I joined this team as a consultant. In addition, Google has stated their car has gone over 90,000 miles without a safety incident.
In March 2012, Google released a video of the car running errands on city streets with a blind man in the driver's seat as a demonstration.
Google's Sergey Brin announced in late 2012 that cars would be available "within five years."
Mercedes has made public declarations they will offer a self-driving vehicle for sale in 2020.
The Mercedes 2014 S-Class features an autopilot for stop-and-go traffic which is the first commercially shipped official self-driving vehicle. This system is a combination of automatic cruise-control and enhanced lanekeeping, and works only under 40 km/h. There are rumours it may also work at full driving speeds, and reports it has been tested on the Autobahn at very high speeds.
Mercedes also has more advanced projects in the works, including a multi-camera stereo system aimed at viewing the 3-D world better than ordinary stereo. (They called this 6-D) Mercedes has also done some unusual concept demos of the self-driving world of the future, but they are not product driven.
Mercedes has taken their test vehicle along the famous 100km route used by Bertha Benz in the world's first automotive road trip 125 years ago.
In late 2011, Toyota announced their AVOS system and provided demonstrations of their concept. Their initial vehicle featured self-delivery and parking, but they have plans for more. The vehicle features 4 different lasers (type not named, but Toyota has published several papers on internal LIDAR development) instead of the spinning Velodyne.
Toyota also produced a video of the future robocar world.
Toyota also showed a more prototype-level car at CES 2013. This car had a Velodyne as well as many radars and other sensors. They claimed it was part of a project to develop better ADAS.
Toyota has declared it is doing vehicles for research purposes only and has no plans to market such vehicles. However, other sources in Toyota say work is going full steam.
Audi did demonstrations at CES 2013 of automated valet parking in a sealed-off lot. This used a laser in the parking lot but was otherwise similar to the Stanford Junior 3 system. They also demonstrated a low-speed highway autopilot: "Piloted Driving." This was featured on a car sporting Nevada Autonomous Vehicle Testing licence plate #007 -- the first issued to a car maker.
At CES 2014, Audi showed their A7 with piloted driving. At CES 2015 they had it drive from SF to Las Vegas with press behind the wheel, and no kick-outs.
Volkswagen was the first company to announce a self-driving car product named Temporary Auto Pilot, however they have not given a firm ship date and it is suggested it's still several years away in a VW, though they have given demos. Like several other products, it is a merger of ACC (Automatic Cruise Control) and lane-keeping, though they have said it will work at highway speeds.
VW works closely with the Stanford robocar team and funded the VAIL lab there.
VW has demonstrated a "trained parking" product where you show a car how to park in your garage and come out to pick you up at your door, and it can repeat that if there are no obstacles in its way.
An Audi TT was modified by Stanford to climb Pikes Peak, including drifting while doing corners on dirt surfaces. This vehicle used enhanced GPS for navigation and was only suitable for closed course operation.
Volkswagen is also a leading member in the "AdaptiVe" project, a European consortium similar to the older SARTRE and C2X consortia. Involved are BMW, Daimler, Ford, Opel, VW, Fiat, PSA, Renault and Volvo and various tier one suppliers. It is primarily a research lab.
The General Motors EN-V is a semi-working concept car with many futuristic features. It's a two-wheeled balancing electric vehicle and features platooning and some limited obstacle avoidance and self-driving. They have also produced advanced concept videos showing a city of the future based around the EN-V.
I haven't written much about the EN-V, though I have sat in it and seen it move around. Here's a GM page about it
GM was the sponsor of BOSS, the CMU car that won the Darpa Urban Challenge in 2007.
GM has announced it is developing a "lane center" system that will keep a car centered in the lane, and can combine with automatic cruise control.
BMW: Highly Automated Driving
The BMW 5-series features traffic jam autopilot as of 2014.
BMW has projects under different names. Most recently, they have released a video of their ConnectedDrive Connect car which has done 5,000km on the Autobahn and 12,000 miles on test track, making it one of the top real-world cars other than Google's.
BMW showed 2 series and 6 series prototypes which featured general driving, assist in oversteer and understeer situations, and the ability to drive a slalom run between cones and obstacle evasion. Here is a video of the 235i drifting.
Strangely, BMW has in other public statements disavowed autonomous driving and believes it will not sell such a car for many years. This ambiguous view is common to the high-end car makers, who sell cars on both "joy of driving" and also on luxury. Self-driving is seen as an important luxury car feature, but the companies do not wish to diminish their sports car cred.
BMW has also done a partnership with Continental to advance their project. They have declared they will have a fully self-driving car in 2020. They report 10,000km of test driving on highways without intervention.
Nissan has declared they will sell self-driving vehicles in 2020.
Nissan/Renault has opened an autonomous vehicle research center in Silicon Valley. The large facility is expected to grow to 60 people in 1-2 years. Nissan has demonstrated their test cars in the USA and Japan.
Their research labs have also released results from time to time, such as this school-of-fish algorithm.
More recently, Nissan has demonstrated a LEAF doing self-parking in parking lots and an autonomous steering system which is able on the test track to drive around a surprise obstacle. The leaf had the number 2015 on it, suggesting a release year.
The Oxford project has adapted a Nissan Leaf for self-driving with an iPad control console; this was done in cooperation with Nissan.
Renault also has the "NEXT TWO" project, which is a vehicle designed for operation up to 18mph, mostly for parking or limited operations in protected pedestrian-free areas.
Renault also has Projet PAMU (Plateforme Avancée de Mobilité Urbaine) in France, based on the Fluence vehicle. (The Fluence was also BetterPlace's battery swap car.) They have done a full-auto vehicle delivery and parking demo.
Tesla says that in mid 2015 it will release a software update for its cars with a sensor package to do a highway autopilot, and will have more full autonomous driving by 2022.
Volvo has announced it will have 100 robocars on public roads around Gothenburg, Sweeden by 2017.
Volvo has for some time been selling a MobileEye based "CitySafe" line of safety features with automatic pedestrian avoidance systems, which use cameras to classify vehicles and pedestrians, and will hit the brakes for you if you're about to hit one. This is already shipping in the S60 and is in all new Volvos.
Sadly, this system suffered some terrible setbacks in demos when they forgot to turn on one part of the system in a press demo and it slammed into a wall it was supposed to brake for.
In October 2013, Volvo announced their 2014 models would begin to feature a traffic jam assist under 50km/h.
The Dutch Automated Vehicle Initiative is a parternship of the large Dutch research lab TNO, Delft University and others. Started in March of 2013, they have already done some demonstrations on the road.
Continental of Germany, a tier 1 automotive supplier, has driven a Passat they modified 6,500 miles. In late 2012 they had hit 10,000 miles and received a Nevada testing licence. Their system has 5 radars and 2 stereo cameras.
Contintenal and BMW have announced a collaboration on robocars, involving redudnant control systems, driver monitoring and sensors. Conti claims that it has 1,400 people working on some aspect of automated driving, though this includes more traditional ADAS.
Bosch, another major automotive supplier, has stated that their traffic-jam assist products (using radar and stereo camera) will be available in 2014. It's not out of the question that some of the automotive vendors will be using this system -- it is quite common for auto vendors to advertise the systems they buy from suppliers as "theirs."
Bosch's silicon valley labs have produced a Velodyne based car and run it on public roads for a limited amount. Bosch has ongoing research in this area.
Delphi has a partnership with robotics faculty from CMU and has built an impressive vehicle with 6 LIDAR-RADAR pairs, two cameras and more. It helps if you make the sensors. Delphi also has many ADAS products, including driver monitoring and obstacle detection.
In early 2015, they took a car from San Francisco to New York, mostly in autonomous mode.
Valeo has developed advanced parking systems for some time, and now is developing a highway cruise and traffic jam assist product. They have taken their car around Paris.
TRW has been doing development in traffic jam assist and sensor arrays on cars.
Ford has an autonomous vehicle lab in partership with the University of Michigan and State Farm. Their vehicle has 4 of the small 32-plane Velodyne LIDARs in a line.
Ford also has a collaboration with both MIT and Stanford to develop cars.
Ford has announced a traffic-jam-assist style prodict for mid decade. Executive chairman Bill Ford gave a speech in March 2012 in Barcelona outlining Ford's work in cooperative driving (using vehicle to vehicle communications) and stating that self-driving cars will be available in 2025. A Ford car was used by Virginia Tech in the Urban Challenge.
Ford has promised a Traffic Jam Assist but has not given a date.
Honda released a self-steer cruise control in London in 2006 (!) called the "Accord ADAS" as shown in this video. It refuses to let you take your hands off the road for only a limited time and sounds an alarm otherwise. There are some reviews. The LKAS (lanekeep) continues to be available in this mode.
Honda showed a concept car called the AC-X at the Tokyo Motor show that said it had an automatic drive mode" button, but without technical details.
Honda has not announced dates but says they will be similar to other automakers, meaning around 2020.
Autonomous Solutions Inc.
ASI of Petersboro, Utah has been working with Ford on a vehicle. The company also makes automated mining trucks. Here is a video.
Porsche & Others
While no robocars plans have been seen from Porsche, they are developing a learning ACC that comes to know the shape of the road. I've seen no published reports about Mazda, Subaru, Suzuki, Mitsubishi, Kia/Hyundai, Peugeot or directly from Renault -- except in concept cars.
Fiat/Chrysler's Dodge division has actually run TV ads about the evils of self-driving cars
Korean manufacturer Ssangyong has a project with KATECH to develop a vehicle by 2020.
Very little has been announced by the major Korean auto companies.
The small Korean company Chumdan Cha makes lane departure systems and other ADAS tools. They have been doing demos for some time of highway driving using these systems. The demos show either extreme confidence or perhaps what might be called recklessness, in that the operator removes his feet entirely from the pedals so that he could not brake in an emergency, and even leaves the seat entirely while on the highway.
The Jerusalem company Mobileye produces camera based systems for ADAS. Their products do many self-driving related tasks, such as tracking vehicles, identifying pedestrians and tracking lane-markers on the road. Their tool is a key ingredient to many of the ADAS systems of the big manufacturers and presumably are used in the autonomous efforts.
In October 2012, they announced a prototype modification of an Audi A7 with 5 cameras and radar able to do highway driving. They will presumably market this to their car vendor customers, which include most of the majors.
The HAVEit project involved 17 different partners working on next generation ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.) A number of these projects led to the early generation, driver-monitored systems coming from European car companies.
German Aerospace company DLR is working on a valet parking project with a train station prototype.
A small SF Bay Area startup called "Cruise" is building a highway autopilot which can be added to existing cars, starting with the Audi A4.
Startup Zoox released designs for a futuristic car with 4 motors that goes equally well forwards and backwards. Zoox's founder has joined with Jesse Levinson, from Stanford's car lab, to develop next generation fully autonomous vehicles.
Hitachi has developed a prototype single person car. It is meant for sidewalks and pedestrian paths and only goes 4mph -- allowing it to be stable and safe. It is operating in Tsukuba. A variety of single seater and hi-tech scooter projects exist around the world.
There are a number of academic teams:
Stanford Junior & TT
The Stanley car from Stanford won the Darpa Grand Challenge in the desert and Junior placed a close 2nd in the Urban Challenge. Since then this has continued as a very active academic lab, demonstrating more advanced versions of Junior, including a valet-parking car with minimal sensors.
Volkswagen funded the VAIL lab at Stanford, and that team modified an Audi TT to climb Pikes Peak.
Chinese National University of Defense Tech
Various projects are underway in China. One that got some press was a machine-vision driven car that has done some distance on real highways there. Reportedly some of this is based on the research of Ernst Dickmanns, one of the earliest pioneers in the technology.
There is also another story of further development indicating a planned trip from Beijing to Shenzen.
It should be noted that Volvo now has Chinese ownership.
Another project at China's First Auto Works looks to do some self-driving car research. FAW has investment from several global car companies as well.
Hefei Institute of Physics
This school has signed a deal with Guangzhou Automobile Group to build self-driving "new energy" vehicles. They have participated in China's National Intelligent car challenge for several years.
AutoNOMOS of Berlin
At the Free University of Berlin they have produced a few self-driving cars, and done some driving on regular streets. The AutoNOMOS lab and their car "Made in Germany" have done a number of cute demos, including summoning a car by iPad.
Vislab of Milan
While most projects rely on high resolution LIDAR, the team at Vislab in Italy have been more interested in machine vision. As a test, they had a convoy of 4 cars drive from Milan to Shanghai in 2011. As there are barely maps of those roads, they had the lead car map while the car behind followed. Their web site has various details and photos.
U of Arizona
Arizona professor Jonathan Sprinkle has an early stage project.
The CMU Tartan Racing team won the 2007 Darpa Urban Challenge with BOSS. Some of the best of that team went on to Google, and there's been surpisingly little in the way of announcements from this advanced group. In 2011 they published experiments in building cooperating cars and using formal proof methods to assure quality in the driving software.
They have done a project to make a self parking car.
Dr. Rajkumar of CMU has also made a Cadillac SUV with more discrete lasers. They have been performing demonstrations of this Cadillac and giving rides to government officials on public roads. He has now partnered with Delphi.
The University of New South Wales has a project with a radar+camera car. This is in partnership with GoGet, a car sharing company.
The team at PAVE under Alain Kornhauser competed in the DARPA challenges and has various experimental vehicles. They dream of getting one to pass the state driving test.
Federal U of Espirito Santo, Brazil
This team sadly became famous for having the first accident, at least on TV involving hitting a human. It was not caused directly by the software. After a TV demo on April 22, 2013, Professor Alberto Ferreira de Souza switched their car, which features the smaller 32 plane Velodyne LIDAR, back into manual mode without the parking brake being set. The auto mode was holding the regular brake. The car started rolling downhill and the open door hit the TV host, knocking her down with minor injuries.
Another team exists and the University of Minas Gerais in Brazil and another at the University of Sao Paulo, which has the Carina system.
A car-share company in Australia called GoGet has teamed with the University of New South Wales on a research vehicle.
A large effort is underway in the UK, with trials planned for Milton Keynes and other cities. This includes a 2-person pod known as the Lutz, a version of the Navya, changes to the vehicle code, prizes for technology and more.
At Oxford, a very different car, called the Bowler Wildcat features a unique custom LIDAR. It is a collaboration with BAE Systems. It has mostly been tested off-road.
They have also since moved on to a Nissan Leaf, and given it an iPad based UI with much less visible lower cost sensors. It uses stereo vision and several smaller LIDARS.
This plan has since received a 10-million pound grant which will also be used with a winning town to develop a testing ground.
One goal of this project is to make it work with much cheaper sensors, even just a camera, though today it is LIDAR based. The system is also map based.
This project has hit the big time and will oversee a 10 million pound grant program in the UK for robocars.
Teams from 3 Japanese universities have opened a joint research lab in Kita-Kyushu.
Ben Gurion University
The lab of Hugo Guterman has built an autonomous jeep, primarily aimed at miltary applications. It's claimed that $200M has been spent and some are doing border patrol already.
IRSEEM Quasper / Renault
In France, an effort known as Quasper involves Renault and the labs IFSTTAR and IRSEEM. (See Nissan projects for more on Renault.)
Technical University of Braunschweig
The Stadtpilot project from TU Brunswick is a successor to their Darpa Urban Challenge entry. The car has done some limited driving on real world streets as early as 2010.
The only finishing entry in the Darpa Urban Challenge to not use the Velodyne LIDAR was the entry from Virginia Tech. They have continued their research and collaborated with the National Federation for the Blind to do some demos from their blind driver challenge. In this case, the blind driver received audio cues from the LIDAR and actually did some of the steering.
This Aeronotical university has built a robotic vehicle to patrol the perimiter of the Daytona Beach airport out of a Ford Escape Hybrid and a Velodyne.
A joint project on Future Urban Mobility between MIT and the Singapore National Research Foundation has done a lot of research and has plans for a short range autonomous taxi system. The SMART initiative has shown off some golf-carts for low cost campus vehicles.
In addition, the A*Star Institute for Infocom research in Singapore has an autonomous vehicle project which is hiring. They plan to do a self-driving bus, and later vans and electric cars.
Mahindra, the large conglomerate, sponsored the Rise Prise for self-driving cars, and their automotive unit is now testing a fleet of electric cars laden with sensors around India.
Teams are springing up at schools all over the world now, and so I will mostly give a short listing here.
Military Unmanned Vehicles
There is an active effort in producing unmanned vehicles for military use, however such projects do not frequently seek publicity. The AUVSI site tracks trends in military unmanned vehicles.