Campus: CSU, Sacramento -- March 20, 2001
Herbie meets HAL - Computer Behind the Wheel
Computers that think remain the futuristic vision of sci-fi buffs.
But a computer that can drive. . . that's another story.
A team of Sac State engineering students, under the direction of professor
Mahlon Heller, have designed and built a computer-operated driverless
"shadow vehicle" for use in protecting highway maintenance
The prototype, called the Autonomous Shadow Vehicle, may someday save
the lives of highway construction workers. The unoccupied vehicle is
designed to replace the human-driven trucks that now follow Caltrans
repair trucks engaged in low-speed operations like sweeping or paint
Today, shadow trucks act as buffers on freeways to prevent drivers from
rear-ending maintenance vehicles. Unfortunately, highway drivers often
hit the shadow vehicles instead. Every year, shadow truck drivers are
killed or seriously injured.
The Autonomous Shadow Vehicle is actually part of a two-truck package
of lead vehicle and shadow vehicle. The shadow vehicle is an imposing
four-ton diesel, with a battery of computers and sensors on board. It
is designed to absorb the first impact if a car hits it from behind.
A four-wheel drive truck with a litany of tracking equipment mounted
on the back is used as the lead vehicle.
The Autonomous Shadow Vehicle automatically follows the lead maintenance
vehicle at 20 to 100 feet. It can move up to 40 mph while tracking a
lead vehicle such as a paint striper.
The project was funded by a nearly $700,000 grant from Caltrans, along
with support from the state of Minnesota and the Federal Highway Administration.
More information is available by contacting the CSUS public affairs
office at (916) 278-6156.