New Eagle kit transforms Pacifica into autonomous vehicle testbed
ABI Research in April released a report forecasting 8 million consumer vehicles shipping in 2025 will feature SAE Level 3 and 4 automated driving technologies. This explosive growth is being partially supported by autonomous vehicle and driving system startups that are springing up all over the globe as the technology’s significant safety benefits prove irresistible to most. With several production cars already available with partial automation features, existing automakers, ride-sharing companies, and others are in an all-out race to lead innovation in autonomous vehicle technology. And there are a whole host of new-mobility vehicle and supplier companies looking to get a jumpstart into the burgeoning industry.
That last group is a particular target of a new company out of Ann Arbor, MI, called New Eagle Consulting, LLC. Product developers at the company have developed a drive-by-wire (DBW) kit for the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan based on their Raptor-based autonomous solution (see here). The kit is a hardware and software solution transforms OEM Pacificas into drive-by-wire vehicles, giving autonomous vehicle developers plug-and-play control of throttle, brake, steering, and shifting on a production vehicle using production rugged and safe hardware. New Eagle will be exhibiting the DBW kit alongside Ann Arbor SPARK and its partner, 3E-motion, at the 2018 Autonomous Technology World Expo in Stuttgart, Germany.
The kit was designed to be easily installed on a Pacifica Hybrid so a team can focus on autonomous-driving algorithms and software without spending additional effort finding and retrofitting a vehicle. The CAN and ROS APIs provide quick plug-and-play capabilities, allowing rapid development and reduced time-to-market. The design mounts directly in the trunk of the vehicle with space and power to mount computing hardware used for developing path planning and perception algorithms.
Throttle-by-wire is achieved by intercepting and emulating the signal from the existing throttle pedal on the vehicle, requiring no additional actuators on that pedal and minimizing the latency for control. The throttle system can respond faster than any human due to its 200-Hz control loop.
Steer-, brake-, and shift-by-wire likewise are achieved by interacting with the systems’ existing electronic power-steering module, brake pedal, and electronic shift actuator, respectively, again requiring no additional actuators and minimizing the latency for control. Controlling the OEM power-steering system makes for a clean interface, simple installation process, and leverages qualified automotive-grade parts to eliminate safety concerns. The braking system leverages both the onboard regen as part of the HEV system and the ABS braking system. The system can be customized to work with either CAN-based or hardwired electronic shift modules. Body control is achieved by interfacing with other CAN devices in the vehicle that are needed for autonomous driving such as turn signals, windshield wipers, and feedback from various vehicle sensors.
The central component of the DBW architecture is a rugged, production electronics controller from Bosch, a GCM196 controller used as the vehicle control unit running New Eagle’s Raptor control software. The DBW kit includes a 12-V DC distribution system for powering the computing and sensing hardware that is controllable using the ROS nodes. As an option, a 120-V AC pure-sine inverter can be included in the DBW mounting rack. Firmware speed limits ensure safe operation during development. Automotive-grade rugged hardware (IP68, up to 100°C) can withstand harsh environmental conditions. The controller can bring the vehicle to a safe stop if any of the following criteria are met: loss of heartbeat from AI system; collision warnings from existing onboard sensors; and fault detection from onboard vehicle diagnostics.
Though developed for a Chrysler Pacifica, New Eagle plans to leverage its DBW architecture to meet the needs for other vehicle platforms regardless of the underlying powertrain, though using hybrid vehicles does reduce the effort needed to take control of an OEM brake actuator.