The UK government has introduced measures to encourage the development of self-driving cars in the UK through its innovation agency, Innovate UK. UK Autodrive was one of three projects that was awarded funding, and this project brought together leading automotive companies, academic institutions, legislators, insurers, and other stakeholders in a three-year trial of self-driving vehicles and connected car technologies. The aim of the project is in establishing the UK as a global hub for the research, development, and integration of self-driving vehicles and associated technologies.
As part of UK Autodrive, Tata Motors European Technical Centre (TMETC) developed autonomous driving software and deployed it in a Tata Hexa SUV equipped with off-the-shelf drive-by-wire hardware. A team of engineers from TMETC developed the sensor perception, motion planning, and vehicle control algorithms. The team made use of model-based design with MATLAB and Simulink to move quickly from design on paper to simulations, and then to running on an embedded ECU in the vehicle.
The biggest challenge for TMETC was to deliver a demonstrable self-driving vehicle for the UK Autodrive project, while keeping the project on schedule and on budget. To meet these objectives, they relied on off-the-shelf components where possible and looked for ways to shorten development time for core control algorithms. A principal design challenge was integrating the numerous disparate elements of the system, which included radar, lidar, GPS, inertial measurement, and mono vision. This is in addition to the algorithms for sensor fusion, motion planning, simultaneous localization and mapping, and vehicle control. Furthermore, all communication between elements had to be logged to comply with UK regulations.
TMETC made use of model-based design from Simulink to model, simulate, and generate embedded code for motion planning and vehicle control algorithms. Three vehicle control algorithms were developed - pure pursuit, lane keeping, and model predictive control. The evaluation of each algorithm was carried out by integrating it with simple lateral and longitudinal models of the vehicle, and running closed-loop simulations. Hardware-in-the-loop tests were also employed to check hardware interfaces. TMETC said it successfully demonstrated its autonomous vehicle on a mixture of urban roads and grid-based streets in the UK Autodrive project’s vehicle trials in Coventry and Milton Keynes.
The main result for TMETC was that real-time controller implementation was accelerated and debugging was simplified.
Dr Mark Tucker, Lead Engineer, TMETC, said Simulink enabled the team to concentrate on the high-level design implementation rather than low-level coding. This was important, as delivering a functional vehicle was the goal of TMETC, not demonstrating its coding skills, he added. Dr Tucker noted that all the motion planning and vehicle control code was generated from Simulink models, which saved a lot of time. “A small team of engineers pulled together an autonomous vehicle with off-the-shelf hardware and control algorithms developed and implemented with Model-Based Design. Though the system isn’t production-ready, it does demonstrate important design concepts with a pragmatic design approach,” he said.