The Fall semester at Olin has just started and my team and I have hit the ground running in terms of getting research started as quickly as possible! As you may have gleamed from the description on the right hand side of this blog, the aim of this research will be to write the software required to allow a John Deere Gator to navigate a mini-baja-type course autonomously and adjust its driving to suit the various types of terrain it may encounter. To do this, we will be modifying and upgrading an old research platform developed in 2010.
So, to start this research, we had begin by undusting the old John Deere Gator from the depths of storage and performing a "robotic archaeological dig" of sorts to figure out what still works and what doesn't.
As one might imagine, this process is never easy and problems showed up right from the moment we tried to retrieve the Gator at all. When we tried to start the engine, the engine wouldn't start and so we had to perform a recovery operation to haul the Gator back up to the Project Building at Olin where we could work on it in a comfortable environment.
Given that the project is software focused and we didn't build the vehicle, we left the engine troubleshooting to a service call to John Deere and proceeded to inspect the onboard sensors and electronics. In doing our inspection, we reconnected wires that had been mysteriously unplugged and discovered that the server had a hardware malfunction that needed to be diagnosed.
Given this and the fact that the NI chassis are all relatively outdated components, we decided that beginning hardware upgrades first instead of trying to restore vehicle functionality would be the logical way to proceed. So, one of the first major tasks this coming will be upgrading the two NI chassis on board the Gator and then slowly trying to bring the various sensors online and confirm that we can still retrieve data from them. The goal will be to have tested at least the LIDARs and wheel encoders by the end of the week.
In addition to the hardware upgrades, this coming week, we will also be laying out a rough roadmap for how the research will proceed and then hopefully officially kick off this research project!
So that was the work this week! Didn't get a ton done work wise but we have made strides in understanding how the electronics were wired and the vehicle is now very much cleaner than when we first dug the vehicle out!
Gator Research Blog
Welcome to the Gator Research Blog for the Fall 2015 semester! The aim of this research will be to develop the software to allow a John Deere Gator to navigate a mini-baja-type course autonomously. Follow our progress here!