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AB Dynamics Unleashes Driverless Scooter for Safety Maneuvers

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【Summary】The main goal of AB Dynamics is to make trials with driverless cars safer, by reducing the involvement of humans during extreme maneuvers and risky scenarios.

Michael Cheng    Jul 07, 2018 12:20 PM PT
AB Dynamics Unleashes Driverless Scooter for Safety Maneuvers
author: Michael Cheng   

On the road, autonomous cars must be prepared for every possible scenario – including random encounters with motorcycles and scooters. For developers, mimicking such situations in closed tracks is difficult due to the risks involved.

This is where driverless scooters from AB Dynamics enters the picture. The company recently showcased a modified BMW C1 motorbike without a rider, navigating beside a car in autonomous driving mode. Interestingly, the compact unit may also serve as a lifeline for developers inside the vehicle during testing.

Trials with Driverless Scooters

The self-driving motorbike is equipped with GPS, radio control features and sensors to facilitate smooth navigation on test tracks. Moreover, the unit is protected by a sturdy roof and powered by the company's autonomous driving software.

The main goal of AB Dynamics is to make trials with driverless cars safer, by reducing the involvement of humans during extreme maneuvers and risky scenarios. Such events are also the type of situations autonomous vehicles must master, often requiring the scenarios to be recreated repeatedly.

"Future legislation and vehicle safety testing could require ADAS systems and autonomous vehicles to be validated in increasingly complex scenarios and the riderless motorcycle is a useful tool for achieving this," said AB's Dr. Richard Simpson, senior systems engineer.

"It could also have applications in motorcycle durability testing by removing the human rider from some of the more arduous tests over rough surfaces, such as pave, where cars already use robot drivers to eliminate driver fatigue."

In a video uploaded by the company, the driverless scooter can be seen cutting off an autonomous vehicle without warning or hesitation. Although the car successfully evaded the motorbike several times, it is still exponentially safer to automate the dangerous aspects of the trials.

Safety First

According to individuals who were given access to the company's modified motorbike, the unit drives smoothly in autonomous mode. The self-driving scooter is capable of re-balancing itself, as it makes jerky turns. Such elements are ideal for replacing soft targets made out of foam and other padded materials, which were initially used by developers. The main issue with soft targets is that they were highly unrealistic and failed to mimic the physical characteristics of objects.

AB Dynamics also needed robustly agile targets that can challenge autonomous cars during testing. Compact motorbikes are perfect vehicles for the job, as the units are capable of weaving around the cars effortlessly. In the future, the company could implement various driverless safety features in safety software for motorbikes on public roads.

"A computer can do a better job than a human can because it is always concentrating," said Torquil Ross-Martin, an engineer developing the autonomous scooter.

"That's where the bike will improve the safety for commuters."

AB Dymanics offers testing platforms for autonomous vehicles, which it sells to businesses in the automotive sector. The startup recently celebrated its first order for a driving stimulator worth more than $2 million. Delivery for the platform is scheduled for 2019 – to a testing facility located in China.

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