Energid Technologies Develops Software Enabling Driverless Convoy Vehicles

Computer Simulation will Support Autonomous-Vehicle Algorithm Development

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Aug. 28, 2014 -- Energid Technologies Corporation has been funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) to develop a digital simulation for safety testing of autonomous military convoys. The Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC) manages the project.

Autonomous vehicles excite the imagination with their potential for increased efficiency in material transportation and human transit. By freeing human drivers for other activities, they will revolutionize transportation.

Driverless road vehicles are guided by control software that converts sensed data into steering and power commands. Because a moving vehicle poses potential danger to people and property, safety must be ensured before the control software can be used in most real-world environments.

Proving safety is hard, as rare events can trigger failures. This makes testing to the level required for fielding both expensive and time consuming—a cost that can be so high it prevents the use of autonomous vehicles.

"It is the cost and difficulty of guaranteeing safety that has prevented autonomous vehicles from being used as much as we would hope and expect," said James English, CTO at Energid.

To address this problem, Energid's method is to apply autonomy algorithms to simulated vehicles in a way that actively seeks out problems. The approach combines randomized dynamic simulation with optimization for finding algorithmic failures. By finding safety problems early at reduced cost, autonomous convoys will be fielded sooner.

"Energid's software will find those one-in-a-million events that rarely happen but have serious consequences when they do," said Ryan Penning, Senior Engineer at Energid. "Understanding and removing these hazards is critical."

The vehicle simulation must accurately model sensors as well as the interaction between vehicles and the environment. Energid's software uses a novel architecture with powerful algorithms for simulating both sensor data and the dynamics of articulated bodies.

Energid is applying computational methods it developed previously for NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. National Science Foundation. The development work will leverage Energid's Actin® and Selectin™ commercial robotics software toolkits, which have been used to design, control, and simulate advanced robotic systems.

"We have powerful software technologies to simulate vehicle movement and wheel-road interaction," said Dr. Penning. "Through this project, we will apply them with the goal of large-scale acceptance and use of autonomous vehicles."

Work on the project will be done in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The project is funded through OSD contract W56HZV-14-C-0199.

About Energid Technologies

Energid Technologies develops robotic systems and products for the aerospace, agriculture, transportation, defense, and medical industries. Energid's Actin™ and Selectin™ products provide advanced technology in the form of extensible software toolkits. Energid specializes in the sensing, control, and simulation of complex systems.

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