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Racing toward self-driving cars, with help from Flanders

The prestigious CU-ICAR Deep Orange 12 project is an academic research project aiming to explore the future of autonomous driving. Thirty universities from locations across the globe – from Indiana to India – will converge on the Indianapolis Speedway this October for a high-speed race. The fun thing: computers will take the drivers’ seats. Tech company Pozyx, based in Ghent (Flanders), plays an important role in this endeavor. "Our real-time positioning system allows us to accurately determine where the self-driving vehicle is located," says managing director Yves Ghys.

High-speed race with self-driving cars

“Self-driving cars are the next grand challenge in automotive technology, but we’re still a ways away from an autonomous vehicle that can drive anywhere and everywhere,” said Paul Mitchell, one of the organizers of the first Indy Autonomous Challenge, during a press conference. 

We knew that there was a major leap that had to be taken. What better way to do that than with a high-speed race at the most famous racetrack in the world?

Paul Mitchell
Indy Autonomous Challenge organizer

Rival collegiate teams have spent the past two years crafting algorithms for this moment. The project is the latest in a series of experimental projects pioneered by CU-ICAR’s Deep Orange R&D squads, comprised of graduate students, companies including BMW, JTEKT, Ford, Honda, Toyota, GM, Tesla, Exxon Mobil, suppliers, and other tech giants that are not traditionally included in the auto industry lineup.

Location tracking through UWB

As a company working with the latest positioning technology, Pozyx wanted in on the action. This scale-up from Flanders makes industrial processes and applications faster, more efficient and safer using UWB (ultra-wideband). Founded in 2015 as a spin-off of Ghent University, Pozyx got off to a good start following a successful Kickstarter campaign. 

The company even moved from Flanders to Greenville, US in February to become neighbors with its partner, Gemba Systems, but also due to its extensive work with CU-ICAR’s autonomous vehicle program, according to Yves Ghys, managing director and CCO of Pozyx’s North American office.

Smart light poles

Pozyx’s inconspicuous yet critical presence on the CU-ICAR campus can be found in the form of small silver boxes mounted on regularly spaced light poles. 

It’s part of a very innovative project that they are doing there with automated vehicles, where they have actually installed our technology on what they call ‘smart light poles’. Those are spread all over the campus, which allow for autonomous guided vehicles and autonomous mobile robots to navigate the campus.

Yves Ghys
managing director and CCO of Pozyx’s North American office

Pozyx’s real-time locating system relies on ultra-wide band radio technology to collect data on tagged objects within a certain radius, from materials or tools on the manufacturing floor to driverless vehicles. Pozyx’s technology, mounted inside these silver boxes, provides the accurate positioning needed by the Deep Orange research team to guide their autonomous vehicles.

Boosting public confidence

CU-ICAR Executive Director David Clayton praised the myriad applications of the tech. “You can use it to help build a prototype vehicle, to localize the vehicle and then help it navigate the road – or the shop floor – in CU-ICAR. The shop floor is almost like a microcosm of the city, and robotics that might be passing through a plant would need to know where they are very precisely.”

But, he added, there is still a long way to go before fully autonomous vehicles hit the highways, particularly in terms of user acceptance

As far as technology development, this project is cutting edge. If a self-driving car can operate successfully at almost 200 mph, it may boost public confidence that autonomous vehicles are safe on the highway running at 80 mph. 

David Clayton
CI-ICAR executive director

More info

Pozyx
Reported by
website Made In
3 August 2021

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