Autonomous vehicle research firm VSI Labs is setting out on the classic American cross-country road trip. A team of three from the Minneapolis-based tech company will visit landmarks from Mount Rushmore, to the Rocky Mountains and the Great Salt Lake. What sets this road trip apart, however, is the car. VSI will utilize their autonomous testing vehicle for the unprecedented 2,000-mile journey.
“We’re doing this to demonstrate the technologies of automated driving,” says VSI Principal & Founder, Phil Magney. Magney launched VSI in 2014 to conduct applied research on active safety and automated driving. Today, VSI builds vehicles to examine the interaction of technologies and better understand how they work. “The Drive West will be our largest experiment ever,” he says.
Though much advancement has been made in the industry, Engineering Project Manager and lead driver Sara Sargent stresses this road trip isn’t about reading emails, watching movies, or napping at the wheel. “The Automated Drive West is not about proving anything. It’s about discovery,” she says. “This trip will apply a few technologies that are particularly useful in rural settings where infrastructure is at a minimum.”
VSI aims to validate the benefit of using precision lanes models and enhanced GPS technology to improve the performance and safety of highway autonomous driving applications. Furthermore, the team seeks to better understand how these technologies operate across varying terrains, weather, and driving conditions – something they’ll have no problem accomplishing with the cross-country trip.
The VSI team will be supported in their endeavor by partners HERE, OxTS and Informa Markets’ Drive World Conference & Expo (Drive World). HERE provides VSI with their HD Live Maps, which work in concert with OxTS’ highly precise GPS device to enable the map-based lane-keeping driving application. “We’re thrilled to be part of VSI Labs’ Autonomous Drive West and provide their autonomous vehicle with the HERE HD Live Map,” said Matthew Preyss, HERE’s expert on autonomous driving. “By utilizing our HDLM data, VSI is testing different autonomous functions like automatic cruise control, lane keeping, lane changing and more.”
Informa Markets will also play a vital role, providing a dedicated platform at Drive World for press and automotive electronics and embedded systems industry professionals to demo the vehicle and interact with the innovative technology.
The Automated Drive West kicks off in Minneapolis on August 20. The team will drive four days to their destination in Santa Clara, CA, after which they will offer demo rides in the vehicle at Informa’s Drive World Conference & Expo from August 27-29.
Those looking to follow along on the journey can track the vehicle’s progress on VSI’s website or keep up with live updates on their social media channels.