Day 4: Stopping is for losers. Follow Sagar’s adventures as he hangs around the Netherlands in the days leading up to the Grand Cooperative Driving Challenge .

Dennis Sundman joined the team today with the statement, “You know you have too little to do, if you start using a mouse.” As hardcore geeks go, the team is now complete.

Today we thought we would refine the system and make tiny incremental improvements that would save us a couple of seconds here and there. In order to be first, every second counts. (Okay, okay bad pun. Anyone for seconds?) Therefore, the work got divided into parallel tracks again. Henrik started with the ECU to improve the launch management, so that we can save a second or so at start. We also decided to reduce the safety distance so that we go closer to the vehicle in front of us. Simon started working on the visualization so that we actually have a Google maps background on which we show our truck and the other vehicles dynamically. Dennis started adding more information that could be logged and make the final output prettier. (Everybody knows that the real aim of research is to produce pretty pictures and visualizations).

In terms of outcomes though, we did not quite achieve the results we expected. Due to a variety of technical and non-technical reasons we did not get the time to thoroughly test and analyze all the changes we had made. Also, the Google maps as background idea did not really workout, due to an insanely annoying bug. The map could be seen, panned and zoomed. However, the markers that showed vehicle positions We know they were there, because the mouse pointer changed icon when we moved over them and they were visible while zooming in and out. But they stayed invisible the rest of the time. That is just a stupid bug somewhere (possibly in the Google API or webkit), but it makes the entire idea unusable. This is a big pity, but these things happen.

TNO has closed off a local road so we can test platooning and do other trials with cars. Unfortunately, our size becomes an issue. The road is really, really narrow and just about 700m long. That leaves very litte room for a truck as big as ours to maneuver around. Also, every now and then some idiots decide that the “Road closed” sign on either end of the closed off road does not apply to their vehicle. So we have vehicles coming up the wrong way and since the truck is so heavy, we cannot leave the tarmac surface and just squish to one side to let them pass. I remember having this irresistible urge to simply run over a Porsche who drove up and then indignantly stayed in front of us, expecting us to give him more room.

Our biggest concern as of now is that the “improvements” made to the controller have resulted in a bug that prevents us from braking even if we are far too close to the vehicle ahead. Fixing that is our top priority now.

So to summarize, we made some changes, tested a few that didn’t work, and did not get the chance to test the rest. Taken on its own, this sounds like a bleak day, but we have sufficient time to fix the issues as well as fall back options that work. The plan is to analyze the logs tonight, cook up the fixes and test them again tomorrow.