DARPA, the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense held a Grand Challenge event in 2004, challenging teams to develop an unmanned or and/or remotely controlled vehicle for national security applications. In 2007, DARPA created a new challenge: the Urban Challenge in which the vehicle had to run a 60-mile race with intersections, traffic, turns, parking obstacles, and straight-aways; all without a driver or remote control. This new challenge forces the autonomous vehicles to think like human drivers, making split-second decisions to avoid collisions and obstacles.

Team Mojavaton

In order to meet the requirements of this new challenge, Team Mojavaton had to modify the Nissan Xterra’s, fondly named “The White Night,” sensors and electronics. These modifications allowed the vehicle to track other vehicles in motion, predicting their future path in order to pass slow moving cars, understand traffic patterns in intersections, and weave through parked cars.

Galil Controllers

Galil’s DMC-1416 single axis Ethernet motion controller handles the White Knight’s critical and throttle functions. With super precision and the ability to instantly respond to multiple sensors and inputs, the Galil motion controller was the clear choice.

Sensors within the White Knight deliver input from its GPS system, laser range finders, cameras, and radar. All of these inputs report where the car is located on earth and what’s ahead of it, allowing the systems’ dual core microprocessor-based computer to digest the data and determine: how fast it should be going and what position should the steering wheel be in.

With decisions being made at around 20 times/second, the Galil motion controller was the perfect solution. It can communicate via Ethernet and report its position constantly, whereas other controllers can’t send this information until they have made and finished the move. Additional, Galil’s position tracking mode offers the flexibility to change moves while in the process of making one. Other motion controllers cannot receive additional messages until after the move is complete.

Electromate supplies Galil motion controllers like those utilized to steer and control the White Knight autonomous ground vehicle. For more information, get in touch today.