What humans want, in an automated vehicle

November 8, 2019
Professors Lionel Robert and X. Jessie Yang stand in front of an autonomous vehicle at Mcity, an autonomous vehicle testing ground. Photo: Jeffrey M. Smith/School of Information.

Agreeable, conscientious, and stable. These are three human personality traits that, it turns out, we want to see in our driverless cars regardless of whether we possess them ourselves, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.

The researchers set out to examine how a person’s perception of safety in an autonomous vehicle was influenced by the degree to which the vehicle and the rider seemed to share certain “personality” traits.

Continue reading ⇒

Roofing drone nails down shingles

September 23, 2019
The roofing octocopter, equipped with a nail gun, is parked near the mock roof. By setting the wooden panel at different inclines, the researchers simulated roofs with different slopes. Image credit: Matthew Romano, Michigan Robotics.

An octocopter capable of attaching asphalt shingles to roofs with a nail gun has been demonstrated at the University of Michigan’s M-Air, an outdoor autonomous system testing lab.

This aerial vehicle can position the nail gun, place the nail, and move to the next point without needing a human at the controls.

“For me, the biggest excitement of this work is in recognizing that autonomous, useful, physical interaction and construction tasks are possible with drones,” said Ella Atkins, a professor of aerospace engineering and robotics.

Continue reading ⇒

How can autonomous cars best communicate with drivers?

June 24, 2019
Laboratory simulation of urban, highway and rural route driving at the U-M Transportation Research Institute. Image courtesy: UMTRI.

When working with others, clearly communicating expectations, tasks, and progress can alleviate many issues common in teamwork. What if the teammate is not another human, however, but an autonomous system helping you drive? Do drivers still want to be kept in the loop of a car’s intentions and actions?

To help answer this question, researchers at the University of Michigan led a study that put drivers in a simulation with a talking autonomous vehicle. The findings can help those who are designing autonomous vehicles to make sure drivers will adopt the autonomy and realize their safety benefits.

Continue reading ⇒

A2Sys Lab takes first in firefighting drone competition

April 2, 2019
A2Sys Lab poses with award money
Ella Atkins, Jeremy Castagno, Prince Kuevor, and Matthew Romano won the 2019 Swarm & Search AI Challenge held in Dayton, Ohio over March 29-31, 2019. Photo courtesy A2Sys Lab.

Last year, California experienced the single largest wildfire in its recorded history, a wildfire in Greece killed 100, and wildfires in the British Columbia surpassed the historic proportions seen only the year before. Water and firebreaks can fight immediate threats, but improved mapping and better planning in deploying such resources can maximize impact and minimize risk, reducing the impact of fires over an entire season.

One way to improve mapping and firefighting plans? Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and algorithms that allow them to operate autonomously.

Continue reading ⇒

Building trust between driverless car and driver

March 14, 2019
an obstacle in the road during a driving simulator
An upcoming obstacle sits in the road during a driving simulation that explores how drivers trust autonomous driving systems. Courtesy Lionel Robert.

If a driver does not trust an autonomous driving system, letting the computer take control can be as daunting as letting a teenager take the wheel. While not trusting a new driver might cause passengers to slam a phantom brake pedal or white-knuckle an arm rest, a driver who does not trust driverless systems might miss out on important safety benefits or even, as autonomous system advance, the ability to complete other tasks.

To improve trust in autonomous systems, researchers at the University of Michigan conducted virtual driving trials that found that the more information an automated driving system communicated about upcoming situations, the higher the level of trust a driver had in the system, and the better the driver performed on a task other than driving.

Continue reading ⇒