2011 IR&D Annual Report

Mobile Autonomous Robotics Technology Initiative (MARTI), 10-R9648

Principal Investigator
Steven W. Dellenback, Ph.D., PMP

Inclusive Dates:  07/24/06 – 08/01/11

Background — Technology needed to facilitate the autonomous control of cars, trucks, tractors and military vehicles has made dramatic advances in the last few years led by defense science programs such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge, DARPA Urban Challenge, and Office of Energy Management (OEM) car and truck industry advances in active safety systems and associated sensors. The Mobile Autonomous Robotics Technology Initiative (MARTI) was initiated to improve safety in urban traffic environments. MARTI is charged with developing new sensor, computing and mobile technologies to augment vehicle platforms and provide autonomous vehicle capabilities.

Approach — MARTI is fusing the latest technology from multiple industries to meet the challenges associated with autonomous control of cars, trucks, tractors and military vehicles. Through the incorporation of technologies and design methodologies from multiple industries such as unmanned aerial systems, intelligent transportation systems, cognitive multi-agent systems, machine vision, engineering dynamics, hardware and software in-the-loop simulation, large-scale multi-function robotics, and safety and reliability systems, SwRI is developing a full-scale autonomous ground vehicle platform to be used for advanced engineering of intelligent vehicle systems and applications development.

Figure 1: The SwRI-developed MARTI fuses the latest technology to meet the challenges posed by autonomous control of vehicles.
Figure 1: The SwRI-developed MARTI fuses the latest technology to meet the challenges posed by autonomous control of vehicles.

Accomplishments — The project has completed with the following accomplishments:

  • Concept development and validation that the program is a viable business area for SwRI.

  • Initial technology development, with a demonstration at the ITS World Congress in New York City in November 2008. The demonstration included navigating five blocks of 11th Avenue in an autonomous fashion that included other moving vehicles and significant intersection negotiation as well as interacting with pedestrians.

  • Repackaging using lower cost hardware as well as adding cooperative vehicle functionality. The functionality to perform convoy operations as well as leader/follower operations was added so that MARTI could be demonstrated at the 2009 Robotics Rodeo at Ft. Hood performing military convoy operations. This functionality included taking the lead position in navigating through city streets.

  • Functionality was added to support personnel tracking, tele-operations and seamless switching between modes so that SwRI could demonstrate military maneuvers that were not included in previous demonstrations. MARTI's ability to interact with pedestrians/soldiers is unique and of significant value to military applications. These capabilities were demonstrated at the 2010 Robotics Rodeo at Ft. Benning.

  • The initial hardware component cost nearly $500K. At the end of the program the cost of the hardware required was reduced to approximately $130K. The hardware was packaged in a manner that is deployable in a wide variety of vehicles.

Benefiting government, industry and the public through innovative science and technology
Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 9 technical divisions.