Mechatronic and Embedded Systems Pave the Way for Autonomous Driving

March 2012

The ITS Society advances theoretical, experimental, and operational aspects of technologies that improve the performance of transport systems in safety, reliability, productivity, comfort, and environmental efficiency. The applications of ITS technologies range from solutions for traffic infrastructure to individual systems such as autonomous vehicles in which mechatronic and embedded systems play an important role.
At the recent International Conference on Mechatronics and Embedded Systems and Applications (MESA 2011) in Washington D.C., Alberto Broggi – the former ITS president – gave a keynote lecture entitled “From Italy to China, Driverless!”. In his presentation he highlighted technical and social obstacles encountered on a 13,000-kilometer, three-month intercontinental journey from Parma to Shanghai in 2010. This and similar projects, such as the DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges, boost both the visibility and research in autonomous vehicles.
Autonomous vehicles sense the world with techniques such as laser, radar, lidar, GPS or computer vision. In practice, some sort of sensor fusion that combines the information from multiple sensors is common state-of-the-art. The respective information is then interpreted by advanced control systems in order to identify navigation paths, obstacles, and relevant signage. Whereas many proposed solutions work great in lab setups, real-world applications like in the above challenges reveal their limits.
To some degree, mechatronic and embedded systems solutions already found their way into various cars though a multitude of different assistant systems. In fact, nowadays typical cars feature more than 50 electronic control units that gather input from sensors and provide the control information to actors. All these control units are interconnected by several bus systems so that the respective information can be easily shared in order to enhance the ‘intelligence’ of the car.
In the near future, such embedded solutions along with tightly integrated car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communication interfaces are a promising approach to tackle the traffic and environmental problems in the upcoming decades.
In this ITS Now issue we have compiled respective articles published by the IEEE ITS Society that highlight some of the aspects of autonomous vehicles and the respective sensing requirements.

Martin Horauer, Bo Chen, and Primo Zingaretti


      • Martin Horauer is professor at the University of Applied Sciences Technikum Wien in Vienna where he is managing the bachelor’s program in Electronic Engineering and the master’s program in Embedded Systems as head and associate head, respectively. His research activities are mainly related to automotive embedded systems and distributed industrial communication systems with a focus on verification. He has published more than 50 scientific papers in international journals and conferences, received six best paper awards and several research grants. At present he serves as IEEE Section Austria MD-officer and is member of IEEE, ASME, and OEVE.
      • Dr. Bo Chen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan Technological University. She conducts interdisciplinary researches in the areas of agent-based intelligent systems, pattern recognition and artificial immune systems, advanced engine and hybrid vehicle controls, and real-time monitoring systems. Dr. Chen has authored or co-authored over 65 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers, and received three Best Paper Awards. Dr. Chen is a member of IEEE, ASME, and SAE. Her research work was funded by National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and industrial partners.
      • Primo Zingaretti is professor of Computer Graphics and of Multimedia systems at the Engineering Faculty of the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona, Italy. His research activities are mainly related to artificial intelligence, intelligent mechatronic systems, robotics, computer vision, image and signal processing and understanding and information systems, with main application areas in robotics vision (aerial, ground and underwater autonomous systems) and geographical information systems (GIS). He has published more than 150 scientific research papers in book chapters, journals or conference proceedings in English. At present he is senior member of IEEE, founder of AI*IA (Italian Association for Artificial Intelligence), member of ASME and IAPR.

Selected Articles

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