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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Olin College Students Collaborate with Draper on Autonomous Ground Vehicle Project

Olin College students showed off an autonomous vehicle outside Draper Laboratory on March 3 that could serve as a testbed for sensors and navigation software.

The students built the autonomous control system that allows a John Deere Gator to operate without a driver as part of a collaborative effort with Draper engineers. Draper funded the work through its internal research and development budget.

The students are members of the fifth graduating class at Olin, an engineering school with 300 undergraduates located in Needham, Mass. The project is intended to create a long-term collaboration between Olin and Draper where the Olin students serve as “mini research teams” to perform annual experiments that would otherwise be more expensive for the laboratory to pursue on its own, according to Troy Jones, a senior member of the technical staff at Draper, who oversees the students’ work.

The students’ work on the autonomous ground vehicle (AGV) could enable those who seek to test sensors and vehicle navigation software to do so without needing to design their own platform for demonstrations, according to Nikki Lee, project manager on the student team.

Long-term goals for the AGV include operation in rough terrain, GPS denied areas, and severe weather, as well as overcoming stationary and moving obstacles, Lee said during a briefing for Draper personnel.

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