Florida Polytech Opening New Simulation Facility For Self- Driving Vehicles
by James Coulter
Self-driving vehicles are the future, and Florida Polytechnic University is helping Florida drive closer to that future with a new simulation facility opening on their campus.
Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland will soon be able to perform testing and verification of autonomous vehicle technology in real-time through a new large-scale Hardware-in-the-Loop (HiL) simulation facility being constructed on campus.
The state-of-the-art facility is being developed with funding through a $350,000 grant awarded to the university through the National Science Foundation (NSF). Once completed in the near future, the facility will provide real-time simulation that will better allow for the development and testing of complex embedded systems, according to a press release.
“I thank the National Science Foundation for their support of Florida Polytechnic University’s research and development of autonomous vehicle technology,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “Autonomous vehicle research is critical to the future of transportation in the state of Florida, and I look forward to Florida Poly’s continued leadership in this space.”
Dr. Arman Salgorzaei, assistant professor of electrical engineering, has been overseeing the development of the new facility as the grant’s lead investigator. He joined the university three years ago, and is currently serving his fourth year.
As someone involved with the advanced initiatives within the new facility, Dr. Salgorzaei has high expectations for the new self-driving vehicle technology that will be tested and verified there through real-time hardware-in-the-loop simulation.
“During the past few years, our team worked on fundamental research to come up with a mathematical framework for testing and verification of connected autonomous vehicles which verifies safety and security before they can be used by the public,” he said. “This facility will give us room to test and check our framework, as well as generate scenarios to check the safety and security of those vehicles in a more realistic environment.”
Several projects will focus on the capabilities of self-driving vehicles under various conditions. One project will focus on how different environmental factors such as electromagnetic fields will affect and influence the decision-making of these vehicles.
Another project will focus on the “language of driving”, checking to see how vehicles interact with human drivers and other self-driving vehicles. The third project will focus on security and privacy, testing to see how well they can withstand potential attacks by hackers and other outside forces.
Two years ago, the university began undergoing the testing and verification of self-driving vehicles through virtual computer simulation. This new facility will offer simulation that combines the virtual and real world, permitting more realistic test results, Dr. Salgorzaei said.
“The big problem with other testing environments such as real-world testing is that they are not really safe, they are costly, and we cannot perform different forms of test cases. So to reduce costs and increase the safety of the testing process, we use hardware in the loop testing environments.”
Not only will this new facility allow for the testing and verification of self-driving vehicles within the real world, but the testing there will also provide valuable experience for graduate and undergraduate students, as well as an opportunity to collaborate with other universities.
“Students have access to real hardware and projects that they can use in other industries and universities,” he said. “We also hope that we can work with other universities to bring their algorithms and test them in our facility and work together to make future self-driving vehicles safe and secure enough that they can be used in public.”