The team offers vehicle users some autonomous features usually available only in high-end cars that can be retrofitted
Among the global automotive megatrends, autonomous vehicles are the most intriguing – one that promises to change the way people commute. Autonomous vehicles are expected to make mobility smarter than ever before but no one can deny the general line of apprehension over such self-driving cars as they can have a significant impact on the global economies via rendering the ‘human’ element redundant.
India, for now, is considered a market with very remote possibilities of autonomous vehicle introduction. Nonetheless, a significant amount of development work is being carried out in software and electronics labs in the country. Adding to that growing list is some interesting work done by two young students from the Annasaheb Dange College of Engineering and Technology (ADCET) based at Ashta in Sangli district of Maharashtra.
Akshay Arun Kanere and Giramalla Parmeshwar Kulloli has developed a low cost autonomous kit for entry-level cars, and have named it “Zen: The Wonder Car”. The team diligently worked on this innovation for three years and their hard work was rewarded, when they got an opportunity to showcase it at the 2018 KPIT Sparkle, where they made it to the finals.
The objective of the Akshay-led team was to offer vehicle users some autonomous features that are usually available only in high-end cars. Based on their understanding of automotive electronic systems, Akshay and Giramalla created a list of features that are available in high-end cars and ones that can be facilitated in entry-level cars. This autonomous kit consists of hardware and software and is like an aftermarket accessory that can be retrofitted into any entry-level vehicle. “We felt that instead of manufacturing a self-driving car, this cost-effective autonomous kit will work well for vehicle users,” observed Akshay.
The team developed the control systems of the autonomous kit that comprises Raspberry Pi, gear motors and stepper motors. This kit can be installed inside the vehicle below the dashboard. The team developed a LIDAR scanner using stepper motors and LIDAR sensors that scans the area in front of the car and helps detect any on-road obstacles.
After conducting rigorous development testing and debugging, the team developed a system that was retrofitted on a Maruti Suzuki Zen 2005 model. The autonomous kit enables a vehicle user to drive, turn, stop and park the car from any smartphone with an easy-to-use android application. Further, the vehicle can be connected to the smartphone with two modes – WiFi (range: 50 m) and GSM (range: worldwide) with an interactive voice response menu. The autonomous kit also offers emergency brake assist using a LIDAR sensor, wherein a car stops automatically, when there is possibility of a car crash.
The autonomous kit also helps in detecting drunken driving – in such scenarios the kit detects and sends a message to the owner or driver. Besides detecting drunk driving, the autonomous kit also helps track real-time location of the car on any smartphone as well as provides the possibility of hear voices of persons present inside the car.
The autonomous kit also scores over many high-end cars on one front, claimed the team. It enables keyless operation to lock/unlock doors, roll-up or roll-down windows, switch-on or switch-off headlights and blow horn through the smartphone without an internet connection. Similar features in high-end vehicles can only be operated thanks to an internet connection, Akshay pointed out.
The team concedes that testing of the prototype was highly challenging. “It was tough ask as the autonomous kit-equipped vehicle running without driver is one of the most dangerous things. You never know the car may hit a tree, wall or even people. We had to be extremely careful while developing and testing this kit on a car,” says Akshay. The team from Annasaheb Dange College of Engineering and Technology had participated in various competitions for this innovation and have won the first prize in as many as 17 inter-college project competitions. The team was also selected for the finals of 2018 Smart India Hackathon competition organised by the Government of India.
TEXT: Suhrid Barua