Small Robot Debuts to Help Realize Autonomous Car (Video)

Jun 11, 2009
Hideyoshi Kume, Nikkei Electronics
The "RoboCar," a car robotics research platform developed by ZMP
The "RoboCar," a car robotics research platform developed by ZMP
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A RoboCar without its exterior parts
A RoboCar without its exterior parts
[ If it clicks, the expanded picture will open ]
The demonstration of obstacle recognition and distance measurement by stereo images
The demonstration of obstacle recognition and distance measurement by stereo images
[ If it clicks, the expanded picture will open ]

ZMP Inc announced June 9, 2009, that it will release the "RoboCar," a platform intended for research and development of car robotics. Car robotics is a research field that seeks to apply robotics to vehicles.

The RoboCar is expected to be used by researchers of automotive technologies and autonomous movement technologies as well as by universities and companies as an educational material (See related article).

The platform is a 1/10-scale car robot. Its dimensions are 429.0 (L) x 195.0 (W) x 212.2mm (H), and the weight is about 3kg. The bare-bones model will be marketed for ¥598,000 (approx US$6,119), and the model equipped with exterior parts designed by designer Kota Nezu will be sold for ¥1.298 million.

ZMP will begin shipments at the end of June, aiming to sell 200 units in and outside Japan in the first year.

"We have received orders for nearly 100 units, and about half of the orders are from abroad," said Hisashi Taniguchi, president and CEO of ZMP.

The main body of the car robotics platform is equipped with CCD stereo cameras, an image recognition module that employs the IMAPCAR image recognition chip manufactured by NEC Corp, WiFi (IEEE 802.11 b/g/n) communication module, a gyro sensor, a three-axis acceleration sensor, a total of five rotary encoders mounted on the motor and the four wheels, and eight infrared range sensors.

The car robot is controlled by the Linux operating system. ZMP provides an application development environment for Windows and Linux PCs, utilizing the "MATLAB/Simulink" model-based development tool.

"Steering can be controlled in increments of 0.1° at an accuracy of about 0.5°," Taniguchi said. "The steering accuracy of radio control cars is only about 5°."

The RoboCar is intended to be used for verification of autonomous algorithm at the initial stage as well as for research on human-automobile interaction. Verification of obstacle avoidance algorithm will contribute to improving safety functions such as detection of pedestrians and vehicles and avoidance of collisions, according to ZMP.

The platform includes wireless LAN capability, and information obtained through sensors on the car robot can be collected in a PC to be shared by multiple robot cars. The robot can also be remote-controlled and run autonomously by using the built-in image processing and CPU boards.

At the presentation, ZMP demonstrated (1) obstacle recognition and range measurement with stereo images, (2) obstacle avoidance utilizing the laser range finder and (3) moving in a lane by detecting white lines.

"These applications were developed in several days," Taniguchi said. "More complicated movement will be possible if the users make more sophisticated algorithms."

movie Obstacle avoidance movement realized by utilizing a laser range finder(0:23)
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