What is Make the Future London
For the past 30 years the Shell Eco Marathon (SEM) has aspired to expose the engineers of the future to the mobility challenges of the future by affording them a hands-on opportunity to develop the mindset and the skills to turn their ideas around these important issues into reality. From the outset student teams were designing cars to address problems of fuel efficiency, long before others were taking this issue seriously. Later electric cars and those powered by other sources of fuel joined the lineup on the starting grid, ensuring that students were consistently pushing the boundaries to deliver our aspirations for future mobility. Hosted at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London Make the Future London is the latest offering in this series of events and home to the 2016 Shell Eco-Marathon.
Partnership of the Future
Upholding this spirit of innovation, and recognising the impact that autonomous vehicles are likely to have on the future of mobility, Shell have teamed up with Oxford University’s internationally acclaimed Mobile Robotics Group to provide, during UK Robotics Week, a first technology demonstrator as both an inspiration and proof of principle for the inauguration of an ‘autonomy’ track at future Eco-Marathon events. The Eco Marathon is uniquely placed to provide a challenging environment for young minds to safely explore technology solutions in this exciting space. Unlike typical proving grounds for autonomous systems technology, and just like for any other SEM competition the track is not available for testing a priori. In this sense the SEM challenge will throw down the gauntlet to future engineering generations.
‘Kate’ The Autonomous Urban Concept Vehicle
For Make the Future London we retrofitted one of Shell’s Urban Concept Media Vehicles to enable it to be driven by a computer. The result — dubbed ‘Kate’ — senses its surroundings with a combination of cameras and laser range finders in order to answer three core questions in mobile autonomy: ‘where am I?’; ‘what is around me?’ and ‘how shall I act?’. This is done by a sophisticated software stack, which takes raw sensor data as its input and produces steering and acceleration commands. This software stack — called Selenium — leverages vision data to map the world and to localise within these maps, it uses laser data to gather information about potential obstacles and combines all this information to plan actions accordingly. The hand-over between a passenger/safety driver and the Selenium system takes place via a short, robust hand-shaking procedure on a dedicated iPad in the cockpit of the vehicle. The Selenium system learns about its operating environment during manual driving. Once the vehicle is satisfied that it knows enough about its environment it offers autonomy to the driver. The vehicle is now on display at Shell’s Make The Future London based at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Make the Future London ... and watched simultaneously by the MRG team back in Oxford.