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Chinese unmanned auto tested on expressway

By Wang Wowen (People's Daily)

16:41, August 04, 2011

On July 14, the Red Flag HQ3 unmanned car, which was independently developed by the technical team headed by He Hangen, professor of National University of Defense Technology, has successfully finished a high-speed and totally unmanned test from Changsha to Wuhan.

During this 286-kilometer journey, it was measured that the unmanned car ran at an average speed of 87 kilometers per hour, which created a new Chinese record for unmanned driving in complex traffic conditions. This means China’s unmanned vehicle has achieved new breakthroughs in areas such as the recognition of complicated environment, intelligent behavior decision and control and has reached the advanced world level.

Dai Bin, a professor at the National University of Defense Technology, said the unmanned vehicle is a kind of intelligent vehicle that mainly relies on a kind of equipment called intelligent autopilot, which uses a computer system to realize the unmanned operation.

The unmanned vehicle is made possible through the integration of multiple technologies, such as automatic control, system structure, artificial intelligence and visual computation, and is product of the high development of computer science, pattern recognition and intelligent control technology. China began unmanned vehicle research in the 1980s.

This driverless vehicle is almost the same as an ordinary one in appearance and interior decoration, but in the car there are two cameras in both sides at the top of the window. The professor Dai Bin said the two cameras are the "eyes" of the autonomous driving system. Furthermore, the car possesses all the features of an artificial driving car so it can also be used as an ordinary car.

This unmanned test was completed during the daytime. It started from the Yang Zichong toll station of the Beijing-Zhuhai Expressway at about 9 a.m. on July 14. It took the car 3 hours and 22 minutes to cover this distance. Dai said: "We just give the system a set maximum speed of 110 kilometers per hour. All the later actions such as stepping on the accelerator, brakes, steering, lane changing and passing are totally controlled by the computer without any of our interference."

On that day the car went through the practical test including some complex weather and traffic conditions, such as the road lane being jammed. Dai Bin said that the car was not equipped with a GPS navigation system, but its environmental sensors can recognize road markings. The car totally relied on its vehicle mounted intelligent behavior decision and control system for the autonomous driving in the heavy traffic of the freeway.

The unmanned vehicle possesses an active security function so that if a vehicle in front of it is too close, it would immediately release the accelerator pedal and start the brake to reduce the speed. "In general, the machine reaction rate can reach 40 milliseconds and humans at least 500 milliseconds." Dai Bin said.

In order to ensure safety during the test, the research group’s lead professor Sun Zhenping sat in the driving position as the "supervisor." The test data statistics of that day registered 10 manual interventions of 2.24 kilometers in total because of the complex road and traffic conditions.

"In general the artificial interference mileage accounts for less than one percent of the autonomous driving mileage," Dai said.

According to the international general rule, a trip in which artificial interference is kept to less than 3 percent is considered to be a full journey of unmanned driving. That means this unmanned vehicle technology research developed by National University of Defense Technology has reached the international advanced level.

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