Java Customer Story

Java Customer Story

Java Takes the Wheel

Robotics and automation systems maker Perrone Robotics delivers a Java-based system to test today’s new crash avoidance technologies. By Philip J. Gill

 

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Once the stuff of science fiction, the driverless car now seems not only inevitable but just around the corner, as more and more automakers equip their vehicles with various crash avoidance systems. Going by such names as “crash-imminent braking,” “dynamic brake support,” “autonomous emergency braking” and “adaptive cruise control,” these new safety systems can detect an imminent collision, issue an alarm of some kind and slow or brake the car before most drivers have a chance to react.

While no one doubts the value of such systems, there has been no way to fully test their effectiveness. For that reason, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) contracted Perrone Robotics to develop such a system, the Autonomous Vehicle Test System (AVTS). The AVTS, written entirely in Java, will be used to independently test the safety of these crash avoidance systems.

 The DAK is a system ... that is installed into the vehicle to perform driving actions in a more repeatable manner than a human driver.  

- Paul Perrone

“Many of today’s vehicles already have ‘crash-imminent braking’ and other features,” says Paul Perrone, founder and CEO of the Charlottesville, Virginia, company. “But up until now, the IIHS hasn’t really had a way to test how well these technologies work in real-world situations with cars travelling at highway speeds.”

“Our company began work on the system in early 2013 and has completed phase one of the contract, which required delivery of one complete system, including one Target Robot Vehicle and one drop-in actuator kit [DAK] for use by IIHS,” says Perrone.

Real-World Conditions

The IIHS, based in Arlington, Virginia, is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational research organisation that educates the general public about highway and vehicle safety. Perrone Robotics, founded in 2001, provides robotics and automation applications built on its general-purpose, all-Java MAX software platform and toolkit. For the IIHS project, Perrone Robotics used the MAX-UGV framework, originally developed for the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, as the basis for two mobile robotic elements of the AVTS.

Perrone Robotics
Perrone Robotics

Website: perronerobotics.com
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Industry: Technology
Oracle Products: Java Development Kit (JDK) 6.1

While IIHS isn’t the first nor the only organisation developing independent tests for these new safety systems, it did have its own specific criteria, explains Perrone. “The IIHS wanted the AVTS to work under ordinary driving conditions at speeds up to 55 mph,” Perrone says, “and the system could not interfere with the processors, software or navigation systems of the vehicle being tested.”

The Perrone Robotics AVTS is a combination of hardware and software. The hardware includes a ruggedised PC and a DAK. “The DAK is a system of sensors, actuators and control hardware that is installed into the vehicle to perform driving actions in a more repeatable manner than a human driver,” Perrone says.

  Java is what our core MAX software for robotics and automation has been built upon since 2001.  

- Paul Perrone

“The AVTS software uses Java at every level of the system, from low-level hardware control in safety-critical systems, route planning and navigation, to the human machine interface [HMI] for test configuration and control,” says Perrone.

The IIHS intends to use the AVTS on two closed tracks: its current outdoor track and a new indoor one currently under construction. The first phase of testing the AVTS was delivered and successfully tested in May 2014, says Perrone, adding, “They are now ramping up on using the system.”

Perrone is a longtime Java developer who has been using Java to develop enterprise systems and robotics and automation systems for almost two decades. Traditionally, he explains, robotics and automation projects have used a variety of nonstandard, low-level programming languages designed to work with specific operating environments or target hardware. “The use of these highly specialised languages requires ramp-up time to learn their syntax, and they often have limited portability, scalability and third-party tools to support them,” he says. “This can make it like starting from scratch each time.”

Using Java for robotics, on the other hand, changes the game.

“Java is what our core MAX software for robotics and automation has been built upon since 2001,” says Perrone. “Indeed, Java is a high-level programming language and is the most commonly used language in the world today. It also has a wealth of available components and tools. And because Java runs in a Java Virtual Machine, Java applications can be easily ported from one hardware platform and from one operating system to another without having to rewrite it each time. This fosters portability, leverages existing tools and expertise, and lowers costs and time to market.” 

Photographs by Pat Jarett/Getty Images


About the Author

Philip J. Gill is a San Diego writer who has been tracking Java technology for almost 20 years.