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UB unveils its second driverless vehicle

Kyle S. Mackie

Apple, Amazon and Alphabet, the parent company of Google…. You know some of the big-name companies working on developing autonomous vehicles. However, there also is cutting-edge research being done in this field a lot closer to home. The University at Buffalo unveiled its second autonomous vehicle Tuesday and WBFO’s Kyle Mackie got to climb inside.

Credit Kyle S. Mackie / WBFO News
The view inside the vehicle.

Steven Korzelius is a Ph.D. candidate in computer engineering at UB. He is one of the people who helped transform a regular Lincoln MKZ into a full-fledged autonomous vehicle.

"What you're seeing (on the screen), this is our LIDAR unit. It's on the top of the car. This is a picture in the back. It's a 360 view. The idea is there are 32 lasers that are sweeping," he explained.

Korzelius said the inside of the vehicle is equipped with a computer that allows internet access.

"The computer is just running a standard Linux operating system," Korzelius said. "We’re running all of our software on top of it."

Credit Kyle S. Mackie / WBFO News
There are 32 lasers on top of the vehicle, which continuously sweep the scene.

Korzelius said the team got the car without any of the software that enables self-driving. They had to develop that and test it out, the purpose of this project.

"The reason that we wanted to work on it and understand exactly how an autonomous vehicle works is because we wanted to work on the testing, evaluation and certification of the autonomous vehicle, which currently, there is no national standards," said Chunming Qiao, chair of UB’s Computer Science and Engineering Department.

Qiao said UB can help fill a gap between the silos that major tech companies and automakers are currently working in to develop autonomous vehicles.

Credit Kyle S. Mackie / WBFO News
Chunming Qiao is chair of the University at Buffalo’s Computer Science and Engineering Department.

"I think it makes sense for a third-party, especially a neutral party like a university, to lead that effort in terms of developing the national standards and methodologies to evaluate the safety of autonomous vehicles," he said.

There are strict requirements for getting permission to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in New York State, so UB’s work was made possible in part by getting Service Center Road on campus designated as private.

The interdisciplinary effort also includes the development of a virtual reality platform that combines real-world testing with simulation.

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
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