Toyota Landcruiser 4WD Test-bed


  1. Introduction
  2. Driving Controls
  3. Smart Cars Project

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Toyota Landcruiser 4WD Smart Cars Test-bed


At its open day on 26 August 2006 the Australian National University displayed the test-bed vehicle for its Smart Cars project with National ICT Australia.

The vehicle in is a modified 1999 Toyota Landcruiser Four Wheel Drive (SUV). From the outside, the only obvious difference from any other Landcruiser is a laser Range finder mounted on the bull bar, to scan the road ahead.

Test-bed Cameras

Test-bed Cameras

Mounted from the rear vision mirror above the dashboard are a set of cameras for looking at the road ahead. There are also cameras observing the driver, to see where they are looking. The vehicle is designed to test both semi-automated control (with actuators operating the brakes and steering) and driver assistance (with the vehicle warning the driver of hazards).

Test-bed Back Seat Driver

Back Seat Driver

The back of the front passenger seat has a large LCD computer screen mounted on it to display the image from the camera and an operator sits with a keyboard monitoring the system from the back seat (literally a "back seat driver").

Test-bed Equipment Rack in Boot

Equipment Rack in Boot

The computers to operate the sensors and screens are mounted in a rack in the boot of the vehicle. Normal desktop personal computers as well as more specialized hardware are used.

Driving Controls

The vehicle has electrical actuators added to operate the brakes, steering and throttle. Theses can be disengaged for normal manual operation.

Three actuation sub-systems are required in the vehicle: steering, braking, and throttle. We achieve throttle control by interfacing with the vehicle's cruise control module. The steering sub-system is based around a Raytheon rotary drive motor/clutch unit, which was designed for use in yacht auto-pilot applications. It was installed in the engine bay alongside the steering shaft of the vehicle.

Power from an electric motor is transferred to the steering shaft using three spur gears: the first is attached to the steering shaft, the second to the motor shaft, and the third, being an idler gear, sits between the first two. A key feature in the design is that the idler gear can be engaged and disengaged from the drive-train using a lever protruding from the assembly. Then for "manual" driving of the vehicle, the idler gear can be disengaged, providing the safeguard that the autonomous steering assembly cannot impede normal steering in any way. ...

From: Smart Cars, Research School of Information Sciences and Engineering, ANU

Smart Cars Project

Rather than being just for one experiment, the test bed vehicle is used for a range of projects. One example is to read speed signs seen by the cameras, then see if the driver has noticed the signs and warn them if they have not.

The Smart Cars project aims to develop computer vision and robotics technology to make the driving experience safer. Most motoring accidents are caused by driver error. Failure to observe obstacles or hazardous situations, drowsiness, and carelessness can all lead to dangerous situations or accidents. NICTA researchers want to help drivers avoid such hazards by using computer vision technology as a driver aid.

As opposed to other intelligent vehicle projects, which aim to achieve autonomous control of vehicles, NICTA researchers intend to leave control in the hands of the driver, but to help by flagging situations of which they may not be aware. For example, moving obstacle detection will help the driver to assess the road ahead, and react appropriately and in a timely manner to obstacles such as pedestrians. Using in-vehicle cameras to monitor the driver's gaze, the software system will be alerted that the driver has not seen a moving obstacle such as a pedestrian, and will warn them with a suitable alarm. ...

From: Smart Cars, NICTA, 2004

Next Test Bed an Electric Vehicle?

The Smart Cars Project is about ready to retire their test bed vehicle. Computers and sensors are getting smaller and fuel is getting more expensive. So perhaps the Landcruiser (which technically is not a car, but is a light truck) will be replaced by something smaller and more fuel efficient. One option would be the Australian modified Electric Echo. This is a Toyota Echo small car, retrofitted with an electric motor and batteries. Another option is the Indian Reva electric car. The batteries could be charged from the ANU's solar cell technology.

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