Road Runner: An Autonomous Vehicle for HRI Research

Ross Mead, Jerry B. Weinberg, Jenna Toennies, Jeffrey R. Croxell, Bryan Adams, George Engel, John Hiatt, Nick Italiano, Ryan Krauss, Aaron Backs, Matt Gorlewicz

Road Runner is an autonomous electric vehicle that was developed to compete in the Mini Grand Challenge, which requires traversing paved pathways on a college campus. A part from the competition, Road Runner was designed as a platform to explore areas of human-robot interaction between the passenger and vehicle. Road Runner is a one person electric golf cart that was retrofitted to provide basic control services of acceleration, braking, and steering. The states of these services are communicated to and queried by a laptop controller that is mounted for easy viewing and access to the passenger. Road Runner also relies on its extensive sensing capabilities in order to avoid obstacles, follow the path, and interact with the crowd. An integral part of path finding involves using a color webcam to sample the color of the path in front of the cart. By sampling, Road Runner can adapt to different path colors, so it can easily go from blacktop to concrete or any color of paved material. Using the sample color the image is processed to distinguish the paved pathway. Overall, Road Runner provides a unique opportunity for research in both autonomous and shared modes of transportation.

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