TORC Technologies, a developer of robotic technologies for unmanned and autonomous vehicles, is offering unmanned systems researchers, developers and integrators in the ground vehicle market a faster way to develop and test new technologies.
TORC’s ByWire XGV™ is a JAUS interoperable, drive-by-wire controlled ground vehicle platform that utilizes the Ford Escape Hybrid as the base vehicle. The XGV comes with built-in safety components and an optional onboard power management system. This off-the-shelf, integration-ready platform has been purchased by various universities and robotics companies to have on hand for rapid integration and testing of their autonomous technologies. The platform design is based on TORC’s success as a finalist in the DARPA Urban Challenge and has been proven during thousands of hours of development, testing and operation.
ByWire XGV makes it possible to bypass the drive-by-wire conversion and jump right into the integration phase of more advanced unmanned technologies. By allowing engineering teams to remain focused on higher-level technology development, the XGV eliminates the need to spend time, money and resource commitments reinventing an already proven system.
“To develop the next level of unmanned ground vehicle technologies, researchers need a reliable, cost-effective drive-by-wire platform from which they can build upon,” says Andrew Culhane, TORC’s business development manager. “In the full-sized unmanned ground vehicle market this is especially important since large amounts of time and money can be sunk into developing an in-house solution that may be pulling resources away from working on the core technology under development.
“The ByWire XGV is a direct solution to the ‘base platform problem’ experienced by so many in the unmanned systems community. As a rapid go-to-market platform with a great deal of flexibility in its application, the XGV is ready to integrate higher-level technologies.”
ByWire XGV focuses on reliability, safety, cost-effectiveness and performance. The conversion package includes three core areas: drive-by-wire (ability for a computer to perform both closed-loop and open-loop control of the vehicle), safety (a fail-safe emergency stop system) and power (set of flexible options for supplying power to any auxiliary equipment).
ByWire XGV utilizes the hybrid Escape’s proven vehicle technologies, tapping into electronic controls, available battery power, and all-wheel drive for on-road/off-road ruggedness and flexibility of application. Controlled through a unified Ethernet interface, the drive-by-wire conversion is seamlessly integrated with the vehicle’s factory electronics, providing electronic control of the steering, throttle, shifter, braking and signals. In addition, information such as vehicle speed, warnings and errors can be monitored.
The XGV includes an integrated SafeStop, TORC’s wireless emergency stop system, providing temporary pause and emergency shutdown functionality. Manual stop buttons are mounted inside and outside of the vehicle for additional safety. A key benefit of the XGV is the availability of onboard DC and AC power, eliminating the need for adding additional power sources to the system. The optional PowerHub™ conditioning and distribution modules allow for use of up to 6 kW of managed power, which is configurable over Ethernet through a web browser.
“The demand for unmanned ground vehicles capable of removing humans from the dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs of the world continually increases as the effectiveness of unmanned systems improve,” Culhane says. “To meet this growing demand, research and development efforts have increased to build up critical technology.”
Examples of such critical areas include sensor range and effectiveness, motion planning techniques in dynamic and unpredictable environments, behavioral architectures, and unobtrusive yet powerful human-computer interfaces. Other important challenges facing unmanned system developers include lowering cost while improving reliability and robustness.
“Achieving all these goals is necessary to boost adoption rates of unmanned vehicles by government and commercial markets,” Culhane says. “Too often these goals are not achieved, however, due to the unavailability of a reliable, cost-effective, and flexible base platform. Too much time and money is put into solving a problem that is not associated with the actual technology under development. The XGV meets this need for the unmanned ground vehicle community.”
To learn more about ByWireXGV, including video demonstrations, please visit http://www.ByWireXGV.com.
About Torc Technologies
TORC is a leading robotics engineering and product development company focusing on unmanned and autonomous vehicle systems. The company commercializes intelligent robotic technologies into modular, interoperable, off-the-shelf products that enable customers to rapidly integrate and deploy unmanned solutions. To learn more, visit http://www.torctech.com.
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