Design & Technology
Cars that drive on their own? December 30th, 2009
R&D Planning Team
World’s first ‘Unmanned cruise vehicle competition’ sponsored by an automaker
Have you seen a car that moves without a driver? Oh, you have?
Then you’ve probably seen Knight Rider, a TV series that originally aired in the 1980s that featured KITT, an intelligent car that drives on its own.
A vehicle like KITT will be coming your way in the not-so-distant future. Prospective researchers are toiling away to develop cars of the future. I am talking about entrants to the “Future Automotive Technology Competition” sponsored by Hyundai-Kia Motors.
Now in its 10th year, the competition gives university (and graduate school) students the opportunity to apply their creative ideas to actual cars. Launched in 1995, it is the largest automobile related contest in Korea.
In previous years, contestants had to come up with ideas and systems in various automotive technology categories. The task for this year is to develop and produce an ‘unmanned cruise vehicle’ based on a finished automobile.
Unlike regular cars which are controlled by the driver, an ‘unmanned cruise vehicle’ is equipped with ‘obstacle detection systems’ such as sensors and cameras and ‘automatic navigation systems’ like GPS modules. An ‘unmanned cruise vehicle’ is capable of steering, changing gears, accelerating and braking according to road conditions without a driver’s intervention. Related technologies should give rise to cutting-edge, and real-world safety and driving systems that provide active support to help drivers avoid risks.
Kia’s ‘Unmanned cruise vehicle competition’ is the first event of its kind introduced by an automaker. In the US, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) organized an unmanned vehicle competition on three occasions from 2004 to 2007 to find possible military applications.
Most of the applicants for the ‘Unmanned cruise vehicle competition’ were teams comprising individuals from university research centers. Applicants were first subject to a document review. Then Kia experts on unmanned vehicles visited schools to inspect the applicants’ research equipment and capabilities. Subsequently, 11 teams were chosen to move on to the finals.
After an orientation session on November 6, the 11 finalist teams embarked on the task of creating unmanned vehicles based on cars provided by Kia. The unmanned vehicles will be unveiled at the final round held in September 2010. They will have to complete given missions, and the victory will go to the car with the fastest finishing time.
During the orientation, the finalists learned about the missions and the contest regulations and schedule. To help the contestants cope with the long preparation period and the challenging task, the developer of BOSS was invited to give useful tips on producing an unmanned car. BOSS was the unmanned car that won DARPA’s Urban Challenge in 2007.
After the session, the finalists toured the 4km course of paved and unpaved roads which will be the venue of the final showdown. They checked out the nine missions they have to complete which include avoiding a parked car, complying with the speed limit, stopping at a crosswalk, and passing through a narrow road/tunnel.
Kia provided each team with research fees and one automobile. The total prize money is around $ 200,000 with the winner receiving $ 100,000. The rewards for second and third place are $ 50,000 and $ 30,000 respectively.
This is the world’s first contest on future automotive technology sponsored by an automaker. Kia is expending much time and resources for the event, which is the world’s biggest competition in terms of scale and technology.
The event should spur more researchers in academia to carry out additional R&D on unmanned cruise vehicles while advancing research into futuristic automobiles at Kia. That, in turn, should fuel advances in technology related to automotive safety.
We will bring you updates on the progress made by the finalists. So, keep your eyes open and hope to see you again here on Kia BUZZ!