Yuma Proving Ground at the forefront of autonomous vehicles testing
Yuma Proving Ground recently acquired driverless robot systems which will be used to test Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems that assist drivers by detecting nearby obstacles or driver errors by responding accordingly, and Automated Driving Systems that perform the driving. The robot is made up of various pieces that attach to the steering wheel, accelerator, and brake pedals. (Photo Credit: Ana Henderson) VIEW ORIGINAL

YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. Self-driving and driver-aided vehicles, whether on the road, the crop fields, or battlefields, are the future.

At Yuma Proving Ground, the automotive instrumentation section within the Instrumentation Division is equipped to test self-driven and driver-aided vehicles.

YPG recently acquired driverless robot systems which will be used to test advanced driver-assistance systems that assist drivers by detecting nearby obstacles or driver errors by responding accordingly, and automated driving systems that perform the driving.

“That driverless robot can be placed into an expendable vehicle. We have that vehicle drive out in the path of the autonomous vehicle and determine whether that vehicle is going to recognize the obstacle and it can tell us if that vehicle is going to make an emergency stop or avoid that vehicle and continue the path,” explained Robert Fillinger, performance team lead for YPG’s Combat Automotive Systems.

“The test gets conducted without a human inside the vehicle in case there is an interaction between the vehicles,” added Sean Haney, automotive instrumentation section chief.

The technology used in the robot is made of various pieces that attach to the steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedals.

The purpose of the robot is to provide repeatable, precise movements based on time and position, explains Haney.

Yuma Proving Ground at the forefront of autonomous vehicles testing
At Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), the Automotive Instrumentation Section within the Instrumentation Division is equipped to test self-driven and driver-aided vehicles. (Photo Credit: Ana Henderson) VIEW ORIGINAL

“The precise timing between the driverless robot systems can allow for any collision scenario combination to be played out.”

Those obstacles include a soft pedestrian and bicyclist targets that attach to a cable driven platform that can be moved along side or into the path of the vehicle with the same precise timing to test pedestrian avoidance.

Fillinger explained, “We are going to utilize this system for Army modernization in support of any cross functional team efforts or anything under the Next Generation Combat Vehicle umbrella.”

The driverless robots add to the arsenal of tools used by Automotive Instrumentation. The robots used for several years now require humans to be inside the vehicle under test and is for more extreme maneuvers to test electronic stability control. YPG has a video showing testing where a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle is driving at high speeds and teetering dramatically side to side as the robot controls the wheel.

Haney describes the robot as, “An aggressive performance type, checking the vehicles stability, at the limits of human inputs. The robot is needed to perform and repeat the required steering and braking maneuvers.”

“We keep a human in the vehicles, but the robot takes over when you tell it,” explained Francisco Chavira, automotive instrumentation supervisor.

There are multiple advantages to using robots in developmental testing. One of those is safety, another is consistency.

“Repeatability gives you validity,” points out Chavira, “When a customer brings us this vehicle; we will measure, record, and monitor all required instrumentation by precisely placing sensors in locations without affecting the integrity of the test item and without influencing the data produced with the sensor installation. The data captured precisely tells them exactly how their vehicle reacts and performs to all these changes.”

Yuma Proving Ground at the forefront of autonomous vehicles testing
Automotive Instrumentation has used another robot for several years now. It requires a human to be inside the vehicle under test, but the robot takes over when commanded and it’s for more extreme maneuvers to test Electronic Stability Control. (Photo Credit: Ana Henderson) VIEW ORIGINAL

After the customer receives collected data using scientific and plotting techniques they can then go back and scientifically study the data collected by the robot and data acquisition systems, then make changes based on the data and modeling.

“After receiving vehicle back from customer, we will use the robot and data acquisition system, impute our existing parameters used previously to duplicate every movement, motion, frequency, temperature, flow, strain, voltage or pressure including all robot parameters to test this again. We can give them the same sensor output, same data acquisition and the same robot motions that is going to duplicate previous efforts/requirements give them repeatable data sets,” added Chavira.

That’s something a human cannot replicate.

“Procedure is everything: If you don’t follow procedure, you won’t get consistence results,” added Fillinger.

Whether its sensors or self-driving robots, YPG’s test teams strive to keep up with the technology needed to test the weapons of the future.

The Engineering Support Branch within the Instrumentation Division provides the capability, oversight and assists in the acquisition of instrumentation needed for testing.

Quality assurance evaluator for automotive instrumentation Gavin Mackenzie explained, “We are driving for modernization of test items. We ensure they can accomplish their mission with their current set of tools while looking forward to the future of testing demands. ESB accomplishes the research and coordination necessary for supporting new Army capabilities in lockstep with Automotive Instrumentation.”

Automotive Instrumentation employees are undergoing training on all aspects of the driverless robots and the pedestrian targets to be ready when it’s testing time.