Autonomous vehicles are a subject of intense research interest, and are being approached by many researchers in different ways. Some of these approaches are based upon pure simulation, while others involve investigations using hardware. One possible approach, which can be useful when investigating how autonomous vehicles might interact, involves the use of physical scaled model vehicles, and the development of an appropriate vehicle is the focus of this paper. For this purpose, a commercially available 1:18 radio controlled car is remodeled and modified. An onboard microcontroller unit (MCU) is used for sensor data acquisition and preliminary signal conditioning as well as actuator control. The sensor array includes a gyroscope/accelerometer, a compass and speed encoder to find the angular and linear position of the car in a local coordinate frame as well as a range finder to detect impending obstacles in the vehicle’s planned path. This information is sent over a serial communication protocol to a Master station via a 2.4 GHz wireless module. The master station consists of a National Instruments (NI) myRIO real-time FPGA module where the local coordinates are used to formulate the position of the car in global coordinates and a user defined control scheme is implemented and the appropriate actuator signal is sent back wirelessly to the MCU on the car. The main purpose of using an independent and offsite control station is to isolate the main processing and increase response speed to changing environmental factors. Furthermore, the myRIO contains the dynamic model of the car which can be modified by linking it to a personal computer station running the LabVIEW graphic user interface (GUI). This adds greater flexibility to the overall system, thus allowing the user to focus on the different control schemes to be implemented through the hardware setup. This setup will be replicated for more cars, set in an urban traffic environment, and the interactions between the cars can then be studied and optimized.

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