Drive by Wire Augmentations to Pre-Existing Automobiles; An Analysis of Socio-Political Factors Influencing Autonomous Vehicle Development

Montgomery, Logan, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Furukawa, Tomonari, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Autonomous vehicles are an integral piece to the future of society. The introduction and subsequent integration of such a technology will fundamentally alter the way people interact with vehicles moving forward. In order to reach this future, the technical topic seeks to design, test, and develop autonomous modifications to a pre-existing vehicle. By bringing the advantages of autonomous vehicles to the familiar feel of an existing automobile, this project will work to alleviate concerns regarding the safety and viability of the integration of such a technology. In order to analyze some of the major factors influencing the development of autonomous vehicles, the research topic seeks to use Arnold Pacey’s Triangle of Technology Practice to better understand how the cultural, organizational, and technical aspects of autonomous vehicles ultimately shape the technology as a whole. The ideas presented in the research conducted as a part of this synthesis will directly influence future work towards autonomous vehicles, tightly coupling the two projects.
As technologies such as sensors and artificial intelligence continue to rapidly improve, the idea of fully autonomous vehicles seems to become more and more of a reality. Even though so much progress is being made, currently only luxury car manufacturers such as Tesla and Mercedes-Benz are able to fully reap the rewards from the advantages full self-driving technology brings due to its exorbitant price. The technical report outlines the modifications of an ordinary 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid, which much more accurately depicts the majority of the cars on the roads today.
These modifications included the mounting of the necessary sensors, as well as the implementation of a fully functioning drive-by-wire system, connected to an external controller. The drive-by-wire system included functioning steer, throttle, and brake-by-wire controllers, each responsible for their own respective subsystem. Currently, all of the drive-by-wire subsystems are functioning as intended, and notable progress has been made in mounting and installing the necessary software for operating the sensor suite. This is a multi-year project, and the progress made this year lays the groundwork for future years to expand upon the existing work and create a level 4 autonomous vehicle.
As with any new and emerging technology, there are an abundance of questions and concerns regarding how society will accept the changes that accompany a transition towards autonomous vehicles. Through the use of Pacey’s Triangle, the interactions of different organizational actors and cultural values such as safety and convenience could be analyzed and understood. By understanding the specific needs of society autonomous vehicles have the potential to fill, this analysis leads to a deeper understanding of the role this technology will play in the future. These relationships shape how autonomous vehicle technology is used by society, and as a direct result, provides direct insight into how society shapes its development.
One of the predominant themes from this analysis was the importance of public understanding and trust for the technology and its manufacturers. Due to the unprecedented nature of artificial intelligence technology, which serves as the backbone for autonomous vehicle decision making, there is a great deal of skepticism regarding the reliability of autonomous vehicles. Recent difficulties with Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” software have fanned the flame of this distrust, while lower level autonomous technologies such as platooning have been welcome by industries in need with open arms. This research seeks to explore some of the interactions that contribute to the nature of autonomous vehicle technology, and has shown how complex this issue truly is.
Autonomous vehicles hold the potential to revolutionize the automobile industry. The main barrier to this revolution is the public perception of safety and reliability. In order to properly design and distribute autonomous vehicles, as is the eventual goal of the technical project, it is essential to understand that there is much more to a technology than simply the nuts and bolts that represent it.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Pacey's Triangle, Autonomous Vehicle, Drive by Wire

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Tomonari Furukawa
STS Advisor: Catherine Baritaud
Technical Team Members: Jacob Deane, Matthew Deaton, Henry Goodman, Alexander Pascocello, Vishal Singh

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