Design and Construction of an Autonomous Golf Cart; Analyzing Case Studies of Transitioning from Human-Driving to Self-Driving Vehicles

Fontelera, Art , School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Furukawa, Tomonari, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Furukawa, Tomonari, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia

The transition from the traditional way of driving into the realm of self-driving vehicles offers significant potential perks in many ways. It is acknowledged that autonomous vehicles (will be abbreviated as “AV’s”) have both economic and societal benefits. In 2015, there were more than 35,000 highway fatalities on United States’ roadways, with 95 percent having involved at least an element human driver error (Husch & Teigen, 2017). One of the main goals of autonomous vehicle technology is to eradicate as much human error as possible in hopes to reduce said overall fatality rates. However, as the new technology continues to improve and develop, concerns regarding their safety and their unintended consequences arise. In order to maximize those benefits while simultaneously minimizing consequences, strategic legislation, on both the state and federal levels, has been put into place (Taeihagh & Lim, 2017). For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provided a roadmap for states wanting to eventually deploy AV’s, rather than declaring one institution to be the overall lead regulator (Husch & Teigen, 2017). This would provide sovereignty among the states as well as difference of opinions towards AV’s by the public to be expressed and heard on a wide range of levels. Conversely, the technical project gives the capstone team two benefits: the ability to explore the features and their implementation that allow autonomy, and also allows team members to acquire firsthand experience and wisdom on the impact that autonomous technology has on stakeholders and vice versa. The team is tasked with adding and modifying features to two golf carts so that it is capable of travelling safely along the University of Virginia’s Engineering Way, while also picking up and dropping off passengers. As a result, from a cumulation of past endeavors from previous capstone teams, the golf carts currently 2 have essential autonomous features already in place that can feasibly be built upon. Conversely, the cart has unreliable object detection at high speeds, performs poorly in inclement weather, and has difficulty responding to varying human traffic conditions (i.e., pedestrians). The golf carts will be improved upon by adding automated passenger detection, pickup and drop-off at certain points along a route, as well as object detection/avoidance features. Whether or not these features are successfully implemented, the STS paper seeks to analyze the controversies surrounding the push for AV’s becoming the norm. The idea of introducing self-driving cars to public roads has both been sensationalized as well as feared. The main STS framework used will be Social Construction of Technology (SCOT), assisted by the concept of paradigm shifts. Since the STS and technical projects directly overlap each other, the team members are more than likely to empathize and build a unique perspective resembling that of real-world AV engineers, who have had to make important design decisions directly affected by the differing public opinions of self-driving cars.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
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