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The e-car: Electronics technology applied to sustainable mobility, Part 16

Autonomous driving represents one of the most interesting fields of research in the electronics and automotive sectors. This interest is growing by means of projects like the “Roobopoli” which includes the design and testing of prototype autonomous cars having integrated microcontrollers. The goal is to realize smart control of the autonomous electric vehicle and, more generally, to control smart electronics systems in a smart city (see Figure 1):

“The mission of the project is to promote the understanding, development and experimentation in scale of new communication technologies, mobility, environmental protection and energy efficiency, automation technologies in industry 4.0. Roobopoli is a tiny smart city, a miniature city, where the life of the inhabitants called Roobo, is assisted by modern technologies, the same available in real cities, but reproduced in scale for educational, testing and simulation purposes. As part of the Roobopoli project, one of the main activities consists in the construction and programming of vehicles called Roobokart, which will have to move independently on the roads of Roobopoli. The project ensures an educational experience for learning about robotics and the programming of new-generation microcontrollers, which will be included in the context of the STEAM disciplines, addressing a current theme, that of autonomous driving vehicles and smart cities. The Roobokart and the city are equipped with advanced sensors and cards based on STMicroelectronics microcontrollers, which, together with the other instruments used, constitute a laboratory useful for experimenting with what has been learned in class from books.” (Source: Roobopoli)

Figure 1

The self-driving vehicle, Roobokart, is a part of the Roobopoli project (Source: YouTube)

The self-driving vehicle, Roobokart, is a part of the Roobopoli project (Source: YouTube)

See the YouTube video here:

Autonomous driving success is achieved through the utilization of smart ICs like the integrated circuits produced by the STMicroelectronics Company to control the electric and hybrid vehicles (see Figure 2):

“Vehicle electrification and new powertrain systems are driving the introduction of Vehicle Control Units (VCU) that act as domain controller for electric or hybrid vehicles. The VCU reads sensor signals, for example, brakes, HVIL or charger connection and it then acts to balance the system energy, optimize torque, and control the motor, HV battery pack and the on-board charging system up to charger lock. ST offers a complete solution for VCU applications, based upon our leading-edge System Basis Chip that brings benefits such as BOM cost savings, reduced PCB area, high integration and reliability. The offer is completed by a sensor interface, multichannel configurable HS/LS drivers and high-performance 32-bit MCUs with CAN transceivers and ESD protection to support your full design” (Source: st.com)

Figure 2

The block diagram of a Vehicle Control Unit (Source: st.com)

The block diagram of a Vehicle Control Unit (Source: st.com)

What do you think about the Robocopoli project? Will autonomous driving, integrated with the electrification trend, produce an extremely smart and safe autonomous e-car?

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