The vehicles have to face a plethora of extremely different and extreme conditions: road, weather, infrastructures, temperature, traffic, and even possibly unlawful behavior of other road participants. Plus, the route is unknown since no maps of a large percentage of the trip are available.
In order to face these issues, VisLab put extra care in the design of the vehicles and in the definition of their behavior: two autonomous vehicles are moving at the same time during the trip. Although the two vehicles are exactly identical (same sensor suite and identical control software) they have different goals.
THE FIRST VEHICLE
The first vehicle drives autonomously for most of the trip; it conducts experimental tests on sensing, decision, and control subsystems, and collects data throughout the whole trip. Although limited, human interventions are needed to define the route and intervene in critical situations.
THE SECOND VEHICLE
The second vehicle automatically follows the route defined by the preceding vehicle, requiring no human intervention (100% autonomous). It will be regarded as a readily exploitable vehicle, able to move on loosely predefined routes. At the end of the trip, its technology -thoroughly assessed and refined during this extreme trip- will be mature enough to be used on a set of vehicles moving downtown.
The two vehicles in motion follow an enhanced leader-follower approach, as detailed in the following.
- in case the leader is visible, the follower locates the leader and follows it; local sensing is used to refine its position on the road, avoid obstacles, and determine speed.
- in case the leader is not visible, the follower uses GPS coordinates sent by the leader to determine a rough route; local sensing is again used to refine its position on the road, avoid obstacles, determine speed, and follow the road/path.