Chandigarh University mechatronics engineering students successfully tests AI-Powered Driverless Car NOMAD

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Despite having only 1 percent of the total vehicles in the world, India accounts for over 11% of global road accident deaths, equating to nearly 5 lakh road accidents claiming 1.50 lakhs lives annually. As the world moves to a safer and convenient future in autonomous vehicles, the need of the same has been felt the most in our country, aided by the factor that India’s, is the among the largest automobile markets across the globe.

The autonomous vehicles are the future of mobility towards which the entire world is headed, and the students of the Chandigarh University are leading the charge in India’s journey on this path, as they have developed an autonomous, driverless car powered by Artificial Intelligence, which aims to help curb mishaps on the road and reduce deaths caused by accidents.

True to its coveted acclaim as India’s number 1 Research-Intensive University, Chandigarh University, Gharuan has continued its focused and pointed emphasis on research and innovation and its students have been innovating new technologies ever since the inception of the varsity. Meticulously putting their heads together, the students of Mechatronics Engineering Department have created an autonomous car, commonly called driverless car—NOMAD, that is capable of sensing its environment and moving with little or no human input, thus curbing the possibilities of road accidents caused majorly by human error, besides providing great accuracy even in foggy weather and enabling low cost of operation.

Initially conceived by the students of 2020 Batch, including the team leader Satyam Sharma, KVS Mohan Vamsi, Navjot Singh and Sarabsukh Surya, this electric car combines a variety of sensors to perceive their surroundings, such as Radar, Lidar, Sonar, GPS, Odometry and Inertial Measurement units, even as advanced control systems interpret sensory information to identify appropriate navigation paths, as well as obstacles and relevant signage.

Based on a proper road-legal base structure, the NOMAD is equipped with sensors and cameras for diagnosing the traffic conditions and act accordingly. As the vehicle runs on the road it collects the data which enables the Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence algorithms to train the system for various road traffic conditions. The vehicle is integrated with 15-inch touch screen for automatic transmission and provides on-screen, touch-enabled buttons for headlights, windows, and indicators.

The car aims to reduce the accidents through Pedestrian and Obstacle Detection and Avoidance technology including Automatic Emergency Braking. The car has the capability to distinguish a human/moving body from an object. The car would apply brakes and stop, if it comes across an object while if it comes across a moving body, it would resist the contact by first slowing down and taking a turn. However, if there is insufficient space to make the turn, the car would apply emergency brakes.

Sharing the technical specifications, Satyam Sharma said that the NOMAD uses Deep neural networks to detect objects and the road in each individual frame captured by the Camera sensor while it drives and assesses the situations to make the driving decisions like acceleration, braking, left or right turn etc. The vehicle uses the data from GPS to know the path the car has to follow and then neural networks are used to make real time decisions.

“The recurrent neural network will work as the heart of the system as it has the ability to process sequential data and back-propagation through time. This ability of back-propagation through time allows to make a decision, basis the current as well as the previous position (captured frame) of the car allowing it to detect and differentiate between slow moving and fast-moving objects and their direction of travel to avoid collision efficiently,” Sharma said, adding that more than 200 programming codes in Python have been developed through machine learning.

Two main cameras provide the primary feedback to the image processing system, supplemented by 360° sensors all around the car. The car has a 2-speed transmission, and is capable of achieving maximum speed of 25 KMPH, and can be charged in 4-5 hours he added.

Continuing the work in this direction, the car has been further worked upon by the students of the department to add new features. The car is currently being solarised so that the battery can get charged while running due to solar panels atop the car and this energy is then used to power the electric motor. So far, Rs 3.80 lakh has been spent on this project, all of it supported by the varsity, he added.

The car has now been equipped with many different sensors to accomplish the task of self-parking. The front and back cameras detect a suitable parking space using some basic image processing. Once the parking space has been selected, the vehicle then uses its rear view camera and the short range ultrasonic sensors to detect the objects surrounding our car and slowly start parking it with respect to the dynamic environment changes. The vehicle calculates every movement of the tires made by the motors of the car and uses the rear view camera and ultrasonic sensors as a feedback mechanisms to constantly correct the position of the car and slowly park it.

Remarking on this innovation, S. Satnam Singh Sandhu, Chancellor Chandigarh University, said that ever since the inception of Chandigarh University, the varsity has laid focused and pointed emphasis on inculcating the spirit of research and innovation amongst our faculty and students alike, and our top performance of the varsity in the field of research and innovation is an outcome of that.

“Till date, the students and faculty of Chandigarh University have filed 1273 patents. It fills me with pride to note that as many as 683 patents have been published, while 128 patents are in the first examination stage. Apart from this, 120 patents of the university have been approved. For the last three years, Chandigarh University holds the number one position among the private universities of the countries to file maximum number of patents, while it is ranked third in the number of patents published and granted,” he said.

The Chancellor informed that the University has earmarked a special budget of Rs 12 crores for the promotion of Research & Innovation in the year 2022, so that the economic problems do not become a hindrance for the budding scientists of the future and this extraordinary impetus on the research has led to Chandigarh University becoming the leading stand-alone institution in the country. The University has 20 laboratories under industry collaboration, 30 state-of-art Research Centers, more than 60 research groups, where over 800 research scholars work on innovative research and innovation in various fields, he said.

“I give the credit for this success to all the stakeholders including students, faculty, alumni and industry who have contributed through their efforts to position Chandigarh University amongst India’s elite and prestigious higher education institutions, courtesy its unshaken focus on Quality Teaching, Industry Exposure, Research & Innovation,” the Chancellor added.