Is the shuttle driving itself? Why is there someone in the front seat?
The TONY shuttle is driving itself around the course. The safety operator is there to handle unusual cases or if something happens to one of the sensors or controls. They can easily take control when desired and drive the vehicle normally – then they can return the control to the computer and allow TONY to complete the route.
We’ve seen this at Old Trail where construction equipment will often block the road. We can go around partially blocked lanes, but the shuttle will wait for a fully blocked lane. That’s where the driver can in their judgement drive around.
Once around, a press of a button and the autonomous driving continues.
How does the shuttle know where it is going?
The TONY shuttle primarily uses GPS antennas on the roof to find its location. TONY also uses a specialized correction service so that it knows its location to within a few inches vs. a few feet which is what typical cell phone GPS provides.
We have mapped these routes so that it knows where to go. When started, TONY figures out the best route to get to the selected destination.
How does the shuttle “see” cars, people, and stop signs, etc.?
The TONY shuttle uses a range of sensors to observe the world around it:
LiDAR: these sensors send out several laser beams at any moment and then captures the light returning when those beams bounce off of any solid object. The time it takes to return gives us a very good estimate of the distance to that object. Using 16 different beams that are rotating within the sensor gives us a “3-D point-map” of what is around us in very good detail. There are 3 LiDAR units on TONY – 2 on the front corners that cover the front and sides, and one at the rear for when TONY needs to back up.
RADAR: these sensors send out and receive electromagnetic waves of energy which detect objects at longer ranges than LiDAR. RADAR is useful to know what is out there and where it is, but it doesn’t provide information about the size or shape of an object.
CAMERA: TONY uses the cameras for two main purposes: 1) to find stoplights as TONY approaches and to understand their state (red/yellow/green); and 2) to observe the lines in the road in cases where the GPS signal is degraded due to tall buildings or heavy tree cover.
ULTRASONIC: these sensors use ultrasound waves to detect any objects close to TONY. Their range typically extends to 6-10 feet or so but they provide very good information when maneuvering close to objects such as when TONY is parking.
How does the computer tell TONY how to move or stop?
The computer inside of TONY has a plan that it follows in order to move the shuttle from one location to another.
The computer consults the GPS to understand where it is, an internal map to decide how to steer and how fast it is going, and the sensors to ensure nothing is in the way of its path.
When ready to go, the computer uses built-in motors and actuators to control the shuttle’s steering wheel, throttle, and brakes.
When the destination is reached, TONY applies the parking brake and waits for the next destination.
Have further questions or concerns about the Crozet autonomous Shuttle? Please email us.