Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Autonomo - fully autonomous vehicle designed for the year 2030

By

November 26, 2011

Autonomo 2030 Concept by Charles Rattray (Image: Charles Rattray)

Autonomo 2030 Concept by Charles Rattray (Image: Charles Rattray)

Image Gallery (34 images)

Charles Rattray's vision of what the automotive industry will be capable of by the year 2030 is far more feasible that it may seem at first glance. Autonomo, his fully autonomous vehicle concept, certainly looks the part, but should not be dismissed as just another flashy concept car. As car makers worldwide gear up to face the enormous challenges posed by congestion, pollution, and infrastructural deficiencies, Rattray's final year student project offers a glimpse into the world where these challenges are already a thing of the past. Inspired by biomimicry, sustainability, artificial intelligence and information technology in general, the concept draws on technologies that are already being developed in R&D centers around the world.

Autonomous transport is central to the whole idea. Drawing heavily on the principles of swarm robotics, the self-driving autonomos travel in tight clusters that shift their configurations to maintain an uninterrupted flow of traffic while allowing particular vehicles to reach their respective destinations. This so called "platoon mode" allows to vastly reduce energy consumption through reducing the aerodynamic impact on the vehicles further back down the platoon. Thanks to microwave sensors, the spaces between vehicles are reduced to mere 20cm (7.8 inches), as keeping a safe distance from cars ahead is no longer required. Another type of microwave detectors scan the road surface ahead to prime the suspension accordingly and provide a smoother ride.

Autonomo 2030 Concept by Charles Rattray (Image: Charles Rattray)

Needless to say, the whole operation is run by computers. Each drive-by-wire autonomo has an onboard computer that crunches the data received from an array of sensors (e.g. radar, microwave, lidar, optical and infrared sensors) as well as from external feedback systems. This enables monitoring the road 200m (656 feet) in front and behind the vehicle, or a whole platoon of vehicles, regardless of weather conditions. The cars understand their surroundings well enough to anticipate any changes in the road environment and react to them much quicker that even the most experienced humans. Even the acute senses of the homo sapiens are no match to a set of hi-definition cameras coupled with object recognition technologies capable of interpreting human gestures and predicting the path of other vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians or any other potentially hazardous objects.

This local level of awareness is augmented by data streamed from a constantly updated centralized database responsible for the real-time balancing of mobility demands across the entire network. Such a database would be controlled by intelligent algorithms that learn from the information that is fed to them. Historical data and the data collected in real time would be used to efficiently match the infrastructure real estate with the changing demands of ever fluctuating traffic.

Autonomo 2030 Concept by Charles Rattray (Image: Charles Rattray)

All this would be achieved without overhauling the existing road infrastructure. Instead of making roads wider to accommodate new lanes, Rattray chose to make his concept car a 1.15m (3.77 feet) wide two-seater. This doubles the throughput of our roads, with two autonomos fitting abreast in a single lane. Maneuverability is additionally improved by a tilting design and by wheels that allow movement in all directions (just like in case of a certain crawler robot we covered recently).

The aerodynamic body shares the length and the the wheelbase of a 2009 Mini Cooper, but - unlike the Mini - it is covered with two transparent photovoltaic layers that harvest electric energy to be stored in ultra-efficient lightweight batteries and passed on to the in-wheel motors. Since the passengers are not busy driving, they can enjoy the views through opaque, one-way vision windows or amuse themselves by playing around with the on-board augmented reality screen. Charging the vehicle through electrodynamic induction or energy transfer lasers is done wirelessly and can be performed on the go, via charging pads embedded in the road surface. Energy can also be shared within a platoon.

Without a doubt, this project exceeds the highest expectations you might have of a student endeavor. In fact, this is one great piece of serious conceptual design that brings to the table something more than eye candy. Speaking of which, head down to see the presentation video and check out the gallery!

About the Author
Jan Belezina Formerly in charge of Engadget Poland, Jan Belezina's long time fascination with the advance of new technology has led him to become Gizmag's eyes and ears in Eastern Europe.   All articles by Jan Belezina
17 Comments

What a great future idea !!!

I always liked to draft behind a semi-trailer,

but unnerved by a potential of a rear-ender.

What about that random deer-bolt ???

BombR76
26th November, 2011 @ 07:51 am PST

Absolute fantasy... Even with 20 years the infrastructure required to make that work couldn't be in place; perhaps a city or part of a city. There isn't an incentive large enough to get people to pay for such an operation "come to Detroit, where an automated car can take you to a shitty American hospital after you've been stabbed by drifters." It's an entertaining idea that could be taken seriously, and realistically, rather than through the whimsical eyes of a child.

Did the designer consider what would happen if a chain of cars only 7 inches apart ran into a child in the road, or a deer? What happens if one of the cars has a blowout? There are a lot of NASCAR clips that illustrate my point. Even with the best technology accidents will happen. Supersonic fighter jets break in half, bombs don't explode, satellites smash into moons and planets... I'm just saying, think of all the problems that come with every solution.

But, I like the effort. It's an interesting concept.

Mr.Kim
26th November, 2011 @ 09:04 am PST

I think I am getting that the whole self-driving car concept is really just for those who hate to drive.

Todd Dunning
26th November, 2011 @ 11:42 am PST

These concept cars are always going to be such a massive waste of time. Only a fraction of the tech found in these multi-million dollar "ideals" will ever see the light of day. You want me to get jazzed about auto concepts, put a budget on them. Make all concept cars grounded on reality, then Ill get some interest. How bot this, make a working prototype, no more CG renders of vehicles that will never exist.

whamo017
26th November, 2011 @ 07:10 pm PST

I think the idea is great, and almost the perfect solution to road based transport.

(For very crowded cities, the underground is probably still necessary, but this could hugely improve many many cities)

Here are a few points that comments seem to have missed.

#1. If you have 4 cars in a line with 20cm in between controlled electronically, if you think about it, the whole chain is equivalent to a bus. Its no more dangerous, in fact safer to have a "bus" than can break into 4 parts in a moments notice to avoid an accident than an actual bus that cant. Quite obviously if a deer runs in front of a bus it can stop fine, a 4 car train properly controlled would only be safer as it would have more options.

#2 "Those that hate to drive"! seriously who likes driving in rush hour traffic. If you had the choice of getting there twice as fast autonomously would you really still choose to drive? I sure wouldn't. Think of it as a much better form of public transport, i.e. a virtual bus that is far better than a replacement for a car. The blowout etc issue is exactly the same for a bus, no less dangerous.

#3. What do you mean by infrastructure? The point is that no infrastructure would be necessary at all. Why would you have to pay someone to take such a car? I would choose it over being stuck in traffic any day. It can be made much more secure than both public transport and private car because it can pick you up from your door, and drop you off where you want.

Russell
26th November, 2011 @ 08:13 pm PST

The intention of the project is to show what may be possible if we completely digitised the car, so that it was completely electronic and computerised. Given what is already happening, ie. the long-term exponential growth of technology, communications, sensors, information technology, cloud computing, the internet, etc. this will one day be possible. Technology/electronics doubles upon itself so quickly (as opposed to traditional mechanical components) that I think its not a matter of if it will be possible, but when.

Electronic sensors will soon be far superior to the human eye. Most types of sensors are able to "see" through objects. What this vehicle see's will be immediately communicated to all the others. If a child run out onto the road, these vehicles will react much sooner than the average driver and all the vehicles would react instantaneously in coordination. The car would also sense the maintenance level of every critical component in the vehicle, just like a computer would.

The point of the design is not to solve every problem, but to present a vision better than what we have today. This one year project looks at the major problems and the big picture. If there were teams of specialists working on this, I'm sure we'd be able to save the child.

Charles Rattray
27th November, 2011 @ 03:09 am PST

Actually, Mr. Kim, with the object detectors, the car shouldn't be able to hit a chilld or a deer. And if there was no way to turn and avoid the collision, I would think that the car would just stop.

sara2816
27th November, 2011 @ 06:17 am PST

I've long since gotten that Todd Dunning is a right wing nut who likes everything the way it was. Humans are the weakest link in driving. Many of them are terrible drivers. This illusion of control is why some supposedly "like" to drive. Why would anybody prefer the frustrations of driving when they can sit back and do whatever they want instead. Heck, right now, they already do, but unfortunately while driving. How many accidents are caused by distracted drivers? Talking on the phone. Texting. Playing with the stereo. Eating. I want a world where there's no possibility of drunk driving. Unfortunately, we can't get rid of drunks, but we can get rid of drivers. The accident rate would drop precipitously once human drivers are taken out of the equation. Will it ever be zero? No, but it surely can't be worse than the deadly roads today where I can see drivers breaking laws at every intersection, speeding to beat the light, blocking the box, stopping on top of crosswalks, making illegal turns on red and/or from inappropriate lanes, etc.

Anyone who lives in a city with a decent mass transit system knows the advantages of letting someone else do the driving. I'd rather take the subway or bus than sit behind the wheel. I can read, play, write, even do some work if I need to. Try that while driving. I can look around through the windows, rather than having to keep eyes glued on the road and the cars ahead of me. An autonomous vehicle would be even better because it would be able to take me door to door rather than me having to wait for a train and remembering to get off at the right station. They would give me even more options, like talking on the phone - something that's inconsiderate on the subway even when there is a signal - or even sleeping. Autonomous cars can't come soon enough.

Gadgeteer
27th November, 2011 @ 08:18 am PST

I LOVE this!! We need more of this visionary thinking - it's this kind of world we need to imagine in order to increase our sustainability as a species. I would love to see as much spent on making this possible as we spend going to war each year.

Samuel Taylor
27th November, 2011 @ 05:07 pm PST

I agree with the positive vibes - this is great! Actually it (the vehicle) can be made at this time with status quo technologies, and the infrastructure can be applied to a relatively small town in order to test the efficiency of the whole concept.

Renārs Grebežs
28th November, 2011 @ 12:36 am PST

This would be a good idea if only one manufacturer made these vehicles. Problem comes about when there are dozens of car makers with different levels of technology and R&D. Unless every company has a technology transfer protocol, this kind of road use would be a little far fetched by 2030. Oh yeah, where do all the motorbikes fit onto the road? Microwave sensors too?

Darryl Leong
28th November, 2011 @ 02:15 am PST

They did make a movie, on a similar basis, but with people.... iRobot, remember the flick with Will Smith? I just hope they improved Vicki....

Adam Ackels
28th November, 2011 @ 05:17 am PST

a comment to fullyautonomous concept car, in a contest by peugot(2th) contest I did a simmilar drawing of concept car with th same characteristics, (6 years ago) even I saw in a mag, mycar, shoiwng as acreation of others, for example: now achevrolet has a tv rear of a car I didi the same in that contest, and other characteristicsI can demostrate thatso the contests are for get imformation fron the participants?

Ramiro Barrera Ramirez
28th November, 2011 @ 07:51 am PST

It would be refreshing to see someone who really was able to think outside the box but Rattray clearly cannot. He has already defined the problem as a need for a multiple person self-propelled vehicle that will travel down a conventional asphalt highway. In effect he has created a box within a box, a very American approach to people transportation created by the auto, oil, and tire companies of this country after WW II.

For movement of goods a multi-modal approach has been in use for decades with containers delivered by trucks to docks where they are loaded on to ships and then off loaded on to trucks or trains, and often back on to a truck for delivery to their final destination. In Shanghai the same approach is used for people where electric scooters are used to take people to electric trains which take them to a destination terminal and then they can travel by taxi.

The overall use of resources in terms of energy and space to build and energy to operate and effort to increase capacity of the approach taken in China and Europe is a fraction of that required in US. And in these other countries one can travel distances in a fraction of the time with a fraction of the out of pocket expense as compared to the USA - though the point of the US transportation system is not to maximize efficiency but rather to maximize profits for the likes of GM, Exxon, Firestone, and the real estate and concrete construction sectors.

The minute a designer decides to create a multi-person vehicle they have eliminated 90% of the possible options and locked themselves into a horse and buggy, and definitely put the cart before the horse in every sense.

Calson
28th November, 2011 @ 11:03 am PST

I see that the microwaves would scan ahead to prepare the suspension for bumps. It would be even better if the car ahead would transmit that information (and other important stuff) back to cars behind it to allow all manner of preparations, including preparing for a crash, which if it knew 10 car lengths in advance could do differently.

Also suppose one car had a blowout - could the other cars in the train quickly aid that car? Maybe have magnetic bars quickly shoot out between 2 or 3 cars to stabilize the one that lost the tire until the caravan could be slowed to safety?

One thing I worry about is that these things will take over all roads and they'll be no place for me to rip around in my convertible? However, by then I guess I'll have my personal jet pack or something so much more fun so I won't really care.

Firehawk70
28th November, 2011 @ 11:38 am PST

@ Darryl Leong Industry standards would govern the technology required for such a vehicle system, like any other tech industry. For example, many brands make mobile phones that meet industry standards for a particular region. The internal components would also come from a variety of tech companies.

@ Calson This vehicle will be recharged using electricity from a range of clean sustainable sources, the majority of which would probably come from solar energy.

A US Department of Transportation research program showed that cars following each other at 6.5 meters (21 feet) saved 20-25% energy consumption due to reduced drag. Autonomo will follow each other at 20cm (7.8 inches), saving a lot more energy.

The on board computer will be programmed to conserve as much energy as possible while getting people where they need to go, eliminating unnecessary braking or acceleration (wasted energy). All vehicular traffic will be coordinated across entire cities to reduce congestion and further reducing unnecessary changes in speed.

The concept would save so much energy, that it could make car travel as energy efficient as mass transport.

@ Firehawk70 Manually driven vehicles would be integrated into the system. Autonomo (and autonomous cars like it) will be able to recognise every make and model of every vehicle on the road, and adjust to the driving characteristics of the vehicles around it, regardless if they are autonomous or manually driven vehicles. So yes, you could still drive your convertible, however you may still need to attach internal sensors and a wireless communication device to share your driver inputs with the autonomous vehicles in real time. By 2030, these components will be so cheap it wouldn't cost very much either.

Charles Rattray
29th November, 2011 @ 03:39 pm PST

A wonderful concept that would make commuting from your doorstep to your workplace a productive , or non productive journey in which you can either read, sleep ,work, have breakfast or watch TV en route, you could fetch the kids from school with a single fetch command, your only source of irritation could very well be when you see a manuallly driven vehicle cut across your lane and slow up the whole line.

A simple piece of arithmetic to go by is every time some hurried individual cuts in front of somebody else , the whole line behind has to brake to avoid hitting each other , this slows the line with 1 m/s then someone else does it, and the line slows again to compensate 100 selfish drivers cause 100 000 vehicles into gridlock.

Stand on a bridge in peak traffic and watch those brakelights go on whenever some backyard racer cuts into a line he thinks is going faster, the row of cars behind light up like a christmas tree , and the line slows down, now other people leave the slower line , and in turn cut in front of other lines and in a short time you have a stupidity gridlock.

I sit in traffic everyday wishing that those people who do stupid things in front would get a robot to drive for them, and we all , even them with their lane changing would get to work quicker.

Jabulani
2nd December, 2011 @ 05:17 am PST
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