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UL’s CajunBot II takes the work out of driving

‘Vehicles have gotten smarter’

Saturday May 19th 2007
Bob Moser
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Imagine a new lane on the highway not meant for speeders or slowpokes but for napping drivers whose vehicles are programmed to drive themselves.

As a Cajun-red Jeep Wrangler maneuvered around the old Evangeline Downs parking lot on Friday with no one inside UL computer science professor Arun Lakhotia talked about the future.

“We can see over time that vehicles have gotten smarter with cruise control and vehicles that help park themselves ” he said. “This is just another step.”
Lakhotia leads a team of about 20 UL students and faculty who have developed CajunBot II a robotic vehicle that can operate in urban traffic following a set path while also following traffic rules.

Friday’s excursion was a demonstration of the vehicle before it is judged in late June by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The UL team is one of 53 in the quarterfinals of the third DARPA Grand Challenge race which will be Nov. 3.

Each team that makes the finals will program their vehicle to travel a 60-mile course through a mock city among other robotic and manned vehicles traffic signals and required points along the way.

In 2001 the U.S. Congress mandated one-third of all ground vehicles in the Armed Forces be replaced by robotic vehicles by 2015. To meet the deadline American inventors were called on to help innovate driverless vehicles and the Grand Challenge race helps fuel that innovation.

Students from UL’s computer electrical and mechanical engineering majors industrial design and other fields formed the team in 2002. The school’s entry for the first competition in 2004 was a six-wheeled ATV vehicle.

The UL team was one of 13 to make the 2004 finals and reached that round again in 2005.

For the 2007 competition UL’s Jeep Wrangler is outfitted with sensors on the top and front of the car which collect data around the vehicle.

An onboard computer builds a 3D-vision of the terrain for the Jeep and the computer uses that 3D map traffic rules and mission requirements to make decisions and navigate a course.

The research and development being made by Team CajunBot and others like it can benefit both the military and general public Lakhotia said.

“Imagine vehicles communicating with each other on the road knowing the traffic ahead and how to deal with it ” he said. “People respond drastically but these won’t.”

Cajunbot Flyer

Originally posted: (August 11th 2004)

Source: Team CajunBot

Cajunbot Flyer

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