Among the technological paradigms of the new world mobility, the electrification of engines and the elimination of the human factor in driving are the two most advanced. In Argentina there are already companies that produce electric cars, even in the midst of the enormous difficulties that the country presents. At the same time, there is already a local development promoting vehicle autonomy, the first in Latin Americafrom a work done at the university level.
It is in fact, The Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Laboratory of the University of San Andrés has set itself the goal of obtaining authorization for the first driverless vehicle that can circulate on the Argentine roads. The project did not remain a promise. The first tests have already been carried out on the Punta Chica campus, but the university has invested $ 250,000 in research and development to make it happen.
It is an experimental work that tries to get closer to the standard that is registered in the most developed countries, where, however, there is still no green light for the total autonomy of mobility. In fact, on a scale of 1 to 5 in the levels of dispensation with the human factor, the most advanced system is in Germany, the Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot, which has obtained the level 3 homologation.
While Tesla, which already sells promoted autopilot in its models, has just passed a level 2 and is also under the scrutiny of the U.S. government and judicial authorities in investigating fatalities in traffic accidents with its cars. To understand the complexity of this technology, only with Level 5 will it be possible to eliminate all traces of human assistance driving a vehicle. And it is still far from it.
The autonomous vehicle developed in Argentina
The students of the University of San Andrés took as a basis Ford Fusion Hybrida donation for the high house of private studies that arrived imported from the United States. It is the American version of the Mondeo. From that same country the sensors, radars and hardware necessary for autonomous driving were supplied.
Ford did not participate in the project. That’s why all the oval logos of the brand are covered. Behind the university research, however, there is the contribution of private capital; among these, Mercado Libre Globant, 123 Seguros and Sancor Seguros.
The installation of the equipment and the programming have already been carried out so that the Fusion circulates in a closed circuit on campus. For now it is in a private experimentation phase and will soon take to the streets to carry out a traffic survey in the city of Buenos Aires, in the presence of a human driver.
The idea they have is to collect data on the behavior of other vehicles, the state of roads and road signs. The team working on the project is made up of scientists, engineers and students.
The vehicle, which is a 2017 model, is equipped with a drive-by-wire system that allows you to control all of the car’s controls via a computer. In turn, a series of integrated sensors (lidar, cameras, radar, GPS, computers) allow it to perceive the environment and walk through integrated computers.
Argentine brains for a smart car
Roberto BungeDirector of the Engineering Department of the University of San Andrés and of the Artificial Intelligence Engineering career, lead partner of this project, provided details to Clarione how did this idea come about.
“The project was born as part of the launch of the unique Artificial Intelligence career in the region. Personally, I earned my PhD in Aerospace Engineering from Stanford University and worked for 10 years in Silicon Valley with autonomous vehicles. Since I came into contact with this technology, I have decided to bring it to Argentina, so that I can have indigenous know-how, so that we can be creators. The idea is to develop cutting-edge technology and inspire and motivate the next generation of science, “he said.
The Ford Fusionarrived in Argentina eight months ago, it is equipped with a series of devices that give it autonomy. Bunde indicated that he “has additional equipment such as the Drive by Wire system”. In addition “it has a camera, sensors, lasers that measure the distance to objects and a high-precision GPS that gives it positioning” And the equipment is completed with “an on-board computer processes everything and gives orders to the steering wheel and pedals”.
“Our big work is in developing the artificial intelligence software that is the brain of the car. We developed it entirely here in Argentina with a group of 10 scientists which also includes students, “he added.
At the moment, as explained by Bunge to Clarín, the car is enabled to drive in closed areas, facing a limited number of obstacles. “We are working, in the middle of the development phase, the next step will be that it can be managed in an unstructured environment, a country, a closed neighborhood or a factory environment. But today it is impossible for him to go out on the street because there is no legislation that allows it, “he said.
The engineer doubled the objectives of this project and spoke for the future: “The project aims to establish a center of excellence in autonomous vehicles in Argentina: aerial, aquatic, terrestrial, robot. We want this to be the tip of the iceberg, the start of something that is going to be very big. There is a lot of interest from the industry and also from the sponsors who support us. We do not rule out that the laboratory is developing projects with local car manufacturers. It would be a dream to transform a car produced in Argentina into an autonomous one “.
The future of autonomous driving seems distant for these lands, although Bunge believes it is closer in other places: “This technology will consolidate in the developed world over the next 10 years. There are already cities in the United States such as Phoenix or San Francisco that have driverless taxi services. We, with our project, will shorten the time in Argentina because we are proceeding with the study and analysis of the routes, signs and technology of the cars “.
The scientist explains that advances in this technology can bring great benefits to the country with multiple uses that go beyond the autonomous vehicle for daily traffic on the roads, but can also be used in agricultural machinery, mining or delivery companies.