Waymo (Google), Uber, Tesla and hundreds of startups all over the world are putting huge efforts on building autonomous driving software for vehicles. These efforts are expected to enable a future where we can drive much more safety, even completely freed from the driving task, or at least have autonomous delivery robots (which you might have seen on the NAU campus recently). Waymo - the pioneer in the field - has been testing its self-driving cars on Phoenix’s roads for some time.

Although cars are becoming smarter and safer to drive, many technical challenges are still left to be solved. Safety guarantee is a major issue that requires breakthrough ideas and solutions, especially for self-driving cars in which a multitude of very complex hardware and software components are involved. To address these challenges, high-fidelity simulations and small- scale autonomous vehicles are widely utilized for research, development, and testing of technical solutions. Right here in SICCS, ICONS Lab is actively pursuing this research and will build 4 high-speed small-scale autonomous racing cars called F1/10 (pictured above). These racing cars allow us to push the speed to extremes where the dynamics and autonomy are challenged.

The next generation of smart transportation infrastructure will include connect autonomous vehicles that can communicate in real-time with other vehicles (V2V communication) and with the road infrastructure (V2I communication) for safer and more efficient transportation. For example, a vehicle can inform nearby vehicles of its intention and condition, to ensure safe and optimal driving; or a road can inform incoming vehicles of construction and potential safety hazards.

The current F1/10 autonomous car platform, and many other similar platforms, do not have these V2V and V2I communication capabilities. Each car is independent from other cars and from the infrastructure. To enable research in this area, this project aims to extend the current F1/10 platform with V2V and V2I communication. This project is part of the FF1RR (Flagstaff’s F1/10 Robo-Racing) project, funded by IEEE and SICCS, which will offer research and educational activities on autonomous vehicles at NAU.