It all started with the DARPA challenge…
The kick off to welcome the second intake of PhD students to WASP took place in Lund 8-9 of January 2018. The one-day kick off program consisted of introduction to the program and the building blocks of WASP: the universities and research clusters, the industry connections, the graduate school program, and the WASP research arenas.
Fredrik Heintz gave the newly accepted WASP PhD students a comprehensive overview of the autonomous systems area. The quick development of autonomous systems and autonomy was illustrated by the progress made in the DARPA challenge: a grand challenge issued by the US Department of Defense. The department had a goal that vehicles should be autonomous in 2030, and in order to accomplish this they organized the first challenge in 2004, open for everyone to compete in. 25 teams answered the call for making 250 kilometers autonomously through the desert. The best one reached 11.8 kilometers. But already the next year, five teams finished the 214 kilometer long track and all components on the winner car are now self-evident on autonomous vehicles (e.g. a LIDAR system). By 2007 Google had hired the Stanford-team and taken a big step from research prototype to an almost commercial application.
“In 2004 no team could make it 12 kilometers in the desert, today basically all car manufacturers are developing self-driving cars,” said Fredrik Heintz, pointing out that the major drivers of this development are Google and Tesla.
The presentation covered the concept of autonomy, raised the question of autonomous systems being agents, and touched upon the issues of societal and ethical aspects.
WARAs – what they can do for you
The newly appointed director of the WASP research arenas (WARAs) Gunnar Bark introduced himself and the general aspects of the research arenas. He pointed out how rewarding it is to see research contributions work in real life, and he also described how results from field demonstrations generally get more citations.
“The WASP arenas have capabilities to make life easier for you as researchers and provide the possibilities to test and demonstrate your research. The best researchers do not choose between being relevant and academically excellent, they are both”, said Gunnar Bark.
The aim of the WARAs is just that, to provide the PhD students and WASP researchers access to testing facilities, infrastructure and platforms for fruitful collaborations. The research arenas are unique in creating demonstrators that usually are not available for academic researchers, and still having close contacts to the industry. Martin Rantzer and Fredrik von Corswant then presented the two arenas: WARA-CAT (Collaborative and Autonomous Transport) and WARA-PS (Personal Safety) for the students.
“By using the arena we will collect data from real life scenarios and create data sets to reuse in research and training of algorithms and sensors”, said Martin Rantzer of WARA-PS.
Fredrik von Corswant pointed out the importance of real traffic tests:
“For autonomous cars there is a complexity reaching far beyond what can be tested in simulation models: individual sensors, algorithms, complete integrated systems. We are in need of data sets for testing, and that data can be collected with testing on the arena,” he said.
During the Kick-off and the following Winterconference, an autonomous car that can be utilized on the WARA-CAT was on display for all attendants to inspect and discuss. Read more about both research arenas here.