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A small-sized training and demonstration software and hardware complex for developing skills in creating unmanned autonomous vehicles: small dimensions and modularity of the design provide for remaking the model for various missions
The creation of control systems for unmanned vehicles is one of the main activities of the Autonet roadmap of the National Technological Initiative implementing the state policy in the field of developing the national scientific and technical potential. One of the goals of the program is to increase the quota of domestic manufacturers of intelligent transport control systems for unmanned vehicles in the Russian Avtonet market in the amount of 60% by 2035. Russian automobile concerns (KamAZ, GAZ, AvtoVAZ, UAZ) have already started active development in the field of autonomous traffic systems several years ago.
For working on such scale and intensity, specialists of high qualification are required and training enough of those within a short time is essential for the implementation of state policy.
To educate students of technical universities and improve the skills of already working employees, at the TestBed demonstration training ground for new production technologies at the NTI SPbPU Center, a demonstration training platform was agreed to be developed, i.e., an unmanned vehicle model that meets the following requirements:
The project is carried out jointly with the SPbPU Center for Computer Engineering (CompMechLab) as part of the educational sphere of the NTI SPbPU Center program, namely the development of the TestBed training ground of the NTI SPbPU Center and educational activities on the basis of TestBed for instruction and advanced training of scientific and engineering personnel, and the presentation of advanced developments and competencies in the field of new production technologies for government officials and representatives of industrial enterprises, small and medium-sized businesses.
The developed model will be part of the material and technical unit of the training ground, the opening of which is scheduled for 2020.
The hardware and software platform is based on the NVidia Jetson TX2 microcomputer and the deeply modified Traxxass 4-Tec 2.0 chassis.
The composition of the model includes:
The software was developed at the ISSDP laboratory with the use of open-source software.
The software modules that collect and analyze information from sensors use:
A virtual model was also developed to simulate functioning, which allows debugging software without a physical model, which considerably speeds up the development process.
The SPbPU Center for Computer Engineering (CompMechLab) is finalizing the chassis to reduce the turning radius; currently, it is developing a new supporting structure for the equipment with the use of modern computer-generated simulation and engineering technologies based on the principles of bionic design.
Due to the listed set of components, the model will be able to:
Advantages of the solution
The development of a test sample (stage 1) is completed. Currently, work is underway to modify the test model and expand its capabilities as part of the tasks of the stage 2.
Tasks solved at the 1st stage of development:
Currently (April 2020), stage 2 of the development is underway.
Since the provision of autonomous car movement is a set of solutions to many different problems, at the stage 2 of work, it was agreed to expand and deepen the model’s capabilities in the spheres of spatial orientation, mapping, navigation in space, and interaction with tracking cameras and depth cameras.
One of the most important parts of the hardware and software development was the description of the robot model in the Unified Robot Description Format (URDF). A URDF file is necessary to simulate the behavior of a machine in a virtual environment; it is also used to visualize the results of algorithms.
Gazebo was chosen as a physical simulator. To simulate the lidar, cameras and distance sensors, virtual models duplicating their physical properties were created.
For testing SLAM algorithms (simultaneous localization and mapping) and navigation, several virtual spaces were created with barriers of various configurations.
For the development process, the description of the virtual model included:
The sizes and various physical properties of components, such as mass, inertia, etc., were described for the correct physical simulation of the model in a virtual environment. The description also holds data on the real locations and transformations (rotation) of the components by which the model transformation tree is built.
Virtual model in the Gazebo simulator
The simulator was used to conduct preliminary tests. The model, moving and guided in the proposed space, was to send out for displaying in the visual interface the information about its speed, wheel rotation angles, distances to range sensors, the current map of the area, the current movement path and movement target.
The initial map of the area in the Gazebo simulator simulating a physical environment with barriers for model passing through
The area map created by the model using lidar data after switching on, prior to the start of movement
An area map constructed by a model using lidar data and a mapping block (cartographer) after the traversal
Testing of the virtual model of the platform showed that the software of the relevant blocks completely executes the tasks and works according to the plan.
The framework of stage 2 of work also includes the development and integration of a web interface for the control ling / displaying information and the final system setup.
To improve the technical characteristics of the platform, it was agreed to finalize the design of the model chassis in cooperation with the specialists of the SPbPU Computer Engineering Center (CompMechLab).
Employees of the Engineering Center made calculations of the current chassis design, in which the turning circle is less than 80 cm. To accomplish this, the steering gear of the front axle (steering knuckles, rods, levers) was reworked, due to which the angle of rotation of the front wheels increased from 30 to 45 degrees, and rear suspension changed, so that the rear axle also became controllable with an angle of rotation of 20 degrees and a separate servo.
Therefore, not only was reduced the turning radius of the model but also increased the flexibility in controlling the platform, since at high speeds one only can use the rotation of the front axle, thereby increasing stability, and connect the rear axle to the control at low speeds to improve maneuverability.
The upper deck (transparent plexiglass structure) will later be replaced by a deck engineered with the use of bionic design approaches. At the moment, employees of the Engineering Center have completed measurements and begun to develop the deck.
Technical advantages (at the current stage):
|Programming languages and frameworks||C++, Python, Kotlin, ROS, Cartographer, C, CubeMx|
|IDE||CLion, stm32cubeide, vscode|