J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering
The program’s goal is for the shuttle to serve as paratransit for people who are mobility challenged.
Dr. Srikanth Saripalli has been spearheading autonomous vehicle research since he joined the faculty in 2016. A new initiative in the project is to study passengers’ emotions while in the vehicle, a project Saripalli is working on with Dr. James E. Hubbard Jr. from the Department of Mechanical Engineering (Read more about Hubbard). The goal is to monitor a passenger’s stress levels by reading brainwaves and determining how best to communicate in order to help them feel more at ease.
“The shuttle is not just interacting with pedestrians outside the vehicle; it’s also interacting with people who are sitting inside the vehicle because there is no driver, and if there is no driver, you need that comfort,” Saripalli says.
The team bought a Polaris golf cart, outfitted it with sensors and began running tests in moving the shuttle from point A to point B while teaching the shuttle to stop in between if it sensed pedestrians or any sort of obstacle. Since then, they’ve also received a donated Yamaha cart, which they fully automated.
Each golf cart is equipped with multiple Lidar sensors, so lasers that work day and night offer 360-degree visibility. There is also a camera and a mapped route fed into the shuttle’s code.